Did Viacom Fight Hit Cable One Subs?

As its dispute with Viacom enters its eleventh month, Cable One continues to bleed basic-video customers.

The Phoenix-based operator shed about 25,000 basic subscribers in the period, more than double the rate it did before it decided to drop the youth-oriented networks in April, but in line with losses in the previous quarter.

Graham Holdings-owned Cable One dropped about 15 Viacom channels, including MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, on April 1 after what it called the cable giant’s exorbitant pricing demands. While some expected a massive exodus by Cable One subscribers who want their MTV, the losses, while larger than those before the dispute, haven’t necessarily been crushing.

Cable One, which lost about 22,000 basic-video customers in the third quarter, has been insulated somewhat by its older-skewing markets, not the demographic targeted by Viacom’s youth-oriented networks.

Viacom officials declined comment.

Still, Cable One has lost about 15% of its video subscriber base in the past 12 months — video customers are down by about 87,677 since Q4 2013. And the fourth quarter losses represent about a 5% loss of customers, about five times the rate of larger cable operators.

That could be bad news for Cable One, which is planning on spinning off as a separate publicly traded company from parent Graham Holdings later this year. Graham, in a statement discussing its earnings, said, “Video sales now have less value and emphasis” and added that Cable One is instead focusing on “higher lifetime-value customers who are less attracted by discounting, require less support and churn less.”