Nielsen Sees Nets Losing 2.7% of Subs

The number of homes subscribing to pay TV is down 2.3% from last year according to estimates for August released by Nielsen.

According to Brian Wieser, analyst at Pivotal Research Group, the impact is larger on individual cable networks, which on average lost 2.7% of their penetration.

“The gaps between the two figures are consistent with the notion that cord shaving is impacting owners of cable networks,” Wieser said in a report.

In the short term, the decline in Nielsen numbers doesn’t hurt cable networks financially because most contracts call for minimum payments. But over the longer run, it should affect distribution revenue, Wieser says.

At a time when the industry and Wall Street is concerned about the impact of cord cutting and cord shaving on the financial health of the pay TV ecosystem, seeing bellwether networks like ESPN down 4% and ESPN2 down 4.1% could cause concern.

Related: Nielsen Reports Lower Earnings in Second Quarter

The Nielsen data understands household growth and excludes newer over-the-top pay TV services such as Sling and PlayStation Vue, he added.

Most impacted are networks owned by Discovery, Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit, Time Warner and Viacom.  

Fox networks fared the best, while AMC and Scripps Networks cable channels fell somewhere in the middle.

Discovery Family Channel was down 4.5%, and Scripps’ Travel Channel was down 4.1%.  

Of 118 measured networks, 31 show some subscriber growth. Among the biggest gainers were Fox Sports 2, Discovery’s Velocity, FXM, NBC Universo and Fox Deportes.

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.