Analyst: Sub Losses Worsen Despite Virtual Distributors

Cable subscriber trends worsened for October despite the growth of virtual distributors like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, according to analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.

Wieser says that pay-TV subs were down 3.1% in the October cable universe from Nielsen; the decline comes despite a 1% increase in the growth of TV homes.

Nielsen has also begun providing a Total Cable Plus number that includeds virtual distributors—but it does not have a year-ago comparable figure. In October, the vMVPDs added 1.5 million, which Wieser estimates reduced the drop in pay-TV homes to about 2%.

Wieser says that because vMVPD subscribers get fewer channels, those services provide less help to the programmers with the biggest network portfolios, including NBCUniversal, Viacom and Discovery, which added about half a million subs per network.

Based on traditional pay-TV subscribers, the networks losing the most subscribers were Discovery’s Discovery Family Channel (down 11.2), Destination America (down 11.1%) and Science (down 9.2%).

Disney’s ESPN and ESPN2 were both down 3.7%.

Networks adding subscribers included AMC Networks' Sundance TV (up 15.5), IFC (up 4.6%) and BBC America (up 2.9%); Fox’s FXX (up 3.1%); and Discovery’s Familia (up 8.9% and Velocity (up 2.9%).

(Photo via FamZoo Staff's FlickrImage taken on May 25, 2016 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 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.