MVPD households up, cable way down


People watching TVVideo service growth coming from companies who entered the MVPD business from the telephone side is keeping the MVPD business as a whole above water. But cable companies are continuing to bleed customers, according to the latest study from SNL Kagan.

After suffering a decline in total MVPD subscriptions in both the second and third quarters of 2012, Kagan said as a group the services managed to post a small gain in Q4, and picked up enough subs to post a small positive number for the full year as well.

Kagan said that part of the reason for slow growth is economic – many households are simply crossing an MVPD subscription off of the family budget.

Telco subscriptions have been the bright spot of the three major types of MVPD, but according to Kagan their growth is beginning to tail off as the increase overall penetration. And their growth has not been sufficient to overcome the loss of cable subscribers; however, combined with modest increases in DBS subscriptions, there was just enough growth to put the industry as a whole into the black.

Kagan estimates current subscriber levels at 100.4M, with 56.4M getting cable, 34.1M getting DBS and 9.9M getting telco.

The disappointing fact for MVPDs is that they only managed 51K additional subscribers during Q4 2012 despite the fact that there were an additional 499K more occupied households than during the prior quarter.

Here is a chart of MVPD Q4 2012 performance over Q3 2012, and over the past two years.

MVPD HH Q4 2012 (000
MVPD v. Q3 2012 v. Q4 2011 v. Q4 2010
Cable -418 -1,660 -3,472
DBS 117 288 784
Telco 352 1,418 3,016
Total 51 46 328
Occuied HHs 499 974 1,483
Source: SNL Kagan

RBR-TVBR observation: Legislators and regulators need to be aware of this. The fact that the occupied home total is growing much faster than is the total MVPD subscriber total is a clear sign that more and more consumers are indeed cutting the cord. That means greater reliance on over-the-air television, and it should put Washington on notice that local broadcast television has not come remotely close to outliving its usefulness, nor its need for its full swathe of spectrum.