US pay-TV losses plateau | Media Analysis | Business | News | Rapid TV News
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The sharp fall drop in pay-TV subscribers that began in 2018 looks to have steadied off but it is clear that there looks like there is no way back for the traditional TV industry according to research from Moffett Nathanson.
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Assessing the US pay-TV industry, the leading market analyst said that as measured by the absolute number of subscribers, declines for traditional pay-TV subscribers have begun to moderate. Yet in percentage terms, and when measured against a steadily shrinking denominator, percentage declines are, noted the analyst, “actually remarkably steady.” It calculated that total traditional pay-TV losses in Q2 2021 amounted to 1.351 million, about 200,000 subscribers fewer than they were a year ago. The survey noted that with a smaller denominator, the percentage rate of decline at 7.7% year-on-year was little changed from the previous quarter, 7.9%, and that a year ago, 7.8%.

Looking at platforms, Moffett Nathanson found losses for satellite TV have moderated somewhat, but that improvement, a rate of decline of 12.5% per year, has been offset by accelerating losses for cable. Losses for satellite continue to be significantly faster than for cable, despite the latter industry’s seeming avowed indifference to video losses and the obvious urgency of satellite video retention.

The overall state of affairs can be judged by the fact that the decline in Q2 leaves penetration of traditional pay-TV at around 59% of occupied households, a level roughly equivalent to that of thirty years ago.

Moffett Nathanson says that the industry has now settled into a consistent pattern of steep declines in traditional video subscribers of close to 8% per year which are not being offset by the growth in virtual MVPDs like YouTube TV or Hulu Live. It said the vMVPD industry, now burdened by higher retail pricing, is only converting about a third of the traditional subscribers who cut the cord over the past year.

The other key trend identified in the research centred on sports viewing and the analyst said that data seemed to suggest that the sagging interest in key sporting events was the beginning of a new normal. However, Moffett Nathanson observed that despite disappointment with viewing figures for the Olympics in Tokyo and the NBA, NCAA Men’s Final Four, MLB, Masters or the NHL post sharply falling ratings over the past year, the first weekend of NCAA Football drew materially higher viewership than 2020 and the opening night of the NFL posted the highest ratings since 2015.