Something interesting is happening to television subscriptions in the United States. Contrary to popular opinion it is not simply a matter of cord cutting. In fact, an informitv analysis of quarterly results of the top ten service providers shows an overall increase in video subscribers in the first three months of 2013 but a structural shift is apparent.
Among the top ten multichannel video programming distributors in the United States, the four publicly listed cable companies collectively lost over 200,000 video subscribers in the first quarter of 2013.
That suggests a catastrophic loss that makes for good headlines, but it only represents 0.5% of their combined 40 million video subscribers.
Yet these same companies saw a net addition of 686,000 internet customers over the same quarter.
So while there might appear to be evidence of customers cutting their cable television subscriptions, the number of customers subscribing to broadband continues to rise, and so it seems do profits.
Furthermore, satellite companies DIRECTV and Dish Network both saw increases in video customers, adding 57,000 subscribers between them over the quarter.
Meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T added 388,000 video customers to their IPTV networks and added 919,000 internet customers between them.
So, what we actually see is that among the major providers in the first three months of 2013 there was a general shift from cable to satellite and telco services, with an overall increase of 237,000 video customers.
Breaking that down, the clear winners appear to be AT&T and Verizon, while basic cable is giving way to other pay television bundles and broadband continues to gain customers.
Comcast lost 60,000 video subscribers in the first quarter of 2013, to a total of 21.9 million. However, the company gained 433,000 internet customers.
DIRECTV saw a net gain of 21,000 subscribers in the United States to 20.1 million, down on the 81,000 it gained in the same quarter the previous year.
Dish Network increased net subscriptions by 36,000, to a total of 14.1 million. Dish also added about 66,000 net internet subscribers.
Time Warner Cable reported a net loss of 119,000 video subscribers, dropping to 11.9 million. Meanwhile internet subscribers increased by 131,000 to just over 11 million.
Verizon reported 169,000 net new video subscribers to its FiOS service, bringing the total to 4.9 million, with an increase of 188,000 new internet connections to a total of 5.6 million.
AT&T had a net increase of 219,000 U-verse video subscribers to a total of 4.8 million and an increase of 731,000 internet subscribers.
Charter lost 24,000 video subscribers, mainly basic cable customers, falling to just under 4 million, but gained 99,000 internet customers.
Cablevision video subscribers fell to 2.8 million, following the sale of Optimum West to Charter. On a comparable basis it lost 5,000 video customers, but gained 23,000 internet customers.
What this suggests is that American customers continue to value the pay television proposition, or at least it seems they find it hard to do without.
In an almost saturated market, satellite and telco operators are gaining at the expense of cable while online video is driving demand for better broadband, but the impression that customers are turning away from pay television appears simplistic and generally overstated.
Analysis of operator results by informitv. Cox and Bright House do not report subscriber numbers.