Subscriptions to leading pay-television operators in the United States rose again in the first quarter of 2014. The top ten services from the United States in the informitv Multiscreen Index added over 300,000 subscribers in three months. AT&T accounted for the majority of the gains, which it will seek to extend through the acquisition of DIRECTV. The overall increase is largely attributable to improved performance from cable services Comcast and Time Warner, which appear to be turning around a long-term trend of losses as they prepare to merge.
The informitv Multiscreen Index tracks trends in television across a hundred services worldwide. The United States is the most valuable market. With limited opportunities for further subscriber growth, satellite and telco operators have been successfully taking customers from cable.
The first quarter of the year is generally relatively strong in the United States. In the first quarter of 2014, the top ten services in the United States reporting figures added 314,000 digital television subscribers, following a gain of 187,000 in the previous quarter, with an overall year on year increase of 295,000 as gains from telco operators exceeded losses from cable.
Comcast changed its measurement methodology for multi-dwelling units, resulting in an increase in reported subscribers of over a million. However, even taking this into account, Comcast reported an organic increase of 24,000 subscribers over restated figures for the previous quarter. Under its previous measurement system it lost 60,000 in the first quarter of 2013.
Time Warner Cable lost 34,000 subscribers, but that compares to a reduction of 217,000 the previous quarter, or 119,000 in the first quarter a year previously.
Smaller cable operators Charter, Cablevision, Mediacom and Suddenlink reported modest gains and losses, ending up with just over 15,000 more subscribers between them. Cox Communications and Bright House Networks do not report subscriber numbers.
Satellite operators DIRECTV and Dish Network added 12,000 and 40,000 subscribers respectively, up by 165,000 year on year. Their combined gains were slightly lower than the same period a year previously.
AT&T U-verse added 200,000 video subscribers, while Verizon FiOS added 57,000.
|Time Warner Cable||-34,000||11.16|
Over the last seven years, the top six television services in the United States have gained 10.63 million subscribers between them.
With the market approaching saturation, the main opportunity for further growth now comes from consolidation, with the prospective AT&T acquisition of DIRECTV while Comcast plans to merge with Time Warner Cable.
Unravelling the figures and revealing the real trends will become all the more important as corporate consolidation confuses actual customer numbers and hyperbolic rhetoric obscures reality.
The Multiscreen Index definitively demonstrates that while overall subscriber growth may be levelling off, the numbers contradict the prevalent view that pay-television is in decline.
The informitv Multiscreen Index measures the performance of 100 satellite, cable and telco television and video services worldwide by their current digital subscription numbers. The latest report is available from multiscreenindex.com.