Cable Network Subs Fell 3.2% in May

Pay TV homes dropped 2.2% in May and the average number of subscribers for individual cable networks fell even more, to 3.2%, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group

The decline is steeper than Nielsen has reported in recent months, when the reduction in subs was closer to 2%.

“These figures suggest trends around ‘cord-shaving’ may be accelerating,” Wieser said in a note Monday. “We note that affiliate fees are not necessarily impacted in the short-term as distributors will often be obliged to pay for certain minimum subscriber levels. However, over longer time horizons we think that the trends captured by Nielsen are likely to be reflected in the subscriber numbers that programmers get paid for.”

Wall Street has been anxiously watching the decline in pay TV subs because of the way it will affect future distribution revenue for the companies that own cable networks.

Disney’s networks saw the biggest drops, averaging about 4.1%. The cuts range from 2.8% for Disney Jr. to 4.7% for ESPNU.

Viacom’s networks lose 3.6% of their subs on average. The biggest decline was at CMT, which was down 5.2%; the smallest was Centric at 1%.

Fox bucked the trend. Its median network decline was just 0.7%, but networks including FX Movie Channel, Fox Deportes, Fox Sports 2 and FXX all grew from last year.

(Photo via Ervins Strauhmanis's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 19, 2014 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.