Nielsen December Forecast Sees Bigger Pay-TV Decline

The number of cable subscribers continues to decline, according to the December cable universe estimates from Nielsen.

According to a report by analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group, Nielsen estimates a median decline in pay-TV homes of 1.9% from last year. Combined with a 1.7% increase in total TV households put in place for this TV season, the gap between TV households and pay-TV households is 3.3% for December—the biggest gap in two years.

Median cable network penetration was down 1.9% year over year, indicating an increase in cord-shaving, which means more subscribers are paying for fewer channels.

While cable network penetration is down, Wieser notes that broadcast penetration has kept up with the rise in TV households.

The Nielsen data excludes new virtual MVPD services such as Dish’s Sling and Sony’s PlayStation Vue.

Networks owned by AMC Networks showed the biggest gains in penetration, increasing 1.7% in the December figures. Discovery Communications networks were down 2.3%

Among individual networks, the biggest declines were registered by NBCU’s Esquire and Viacom’s Spike and CMT. The Viacom networks were affected by a retiering by Comcast.

Closely watched ESPN was down 3.3% and ESPN2 was down 3.4%. The Disney-owned networks had similar declines in November—declines that were initially disputed by Disney.

Among the networks growing their distribution were NBCU’s Chiller, CBS’ Smithsonian, Discovery’s Velocity and Fox’s FXM.

Among 166 networks measured, 32 showed some growth.

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.