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US pay-TV operators face “challenging” 2015

The top pay-TV operators in the United States added 101,000 new subscribers during the fourth quarter to end a tumultuous year in 2014 according to the latest report from Strategy Analytics.

The top pay-TV operators in the United States added 101,000 new subscribers during the fourth quarter to end a tumultuous year in 2014 according to the latest report from Strategy Analytics, Digital Television Operator Performance Benchmarking: North America.

The declining trend in pay-TV subscribers in North America, seen during the second and third quarters, reversed in the fourth quarter, with overall growth in both the US and Canada. The 19 tracked operators in the US added 101,000 subscribers while operators in Canada added 5,000. In the US, the increase in the fourth quarter brought the total tracked subscribers to 96.1 million, representing more than 95 per cent of the total US market. Digital subscriber growth has continued throughout 2014, ending the year at nearly 95 million.

“2014 started and finished strong, with growth in pay TV subscribers in both the first and fourth quarters,” stated Jason Blackwell, director of service provider strategies. “The middle of the year was a bit rough, with subscriber losses in the second and third quarters. Overall, the year was flat, with our tracked operators losing only 4,000 subscribers.”

Blackwell added, “Cord cutting remains a threat, and there are new options for consumers that have been deployed during the first quarter of 2015, specifically the Sling TV service from Dish Network. We also expect to see more standalone services from HBO, Showtime, and others, so 2015 will be challenging for the traditional pay-TV vendors.”

During 2014, the US satellite market grew by only 20,000 subscribers as DirecTV had a strong year while Dish Network suffered losses. IPTV operators in the US added 1.16 million new subscribers in 2014. Verizon added 387,000 new subs and AT&T, which sold its Connecticut assets to Frontier, added 478,000. Cable continued to suffer from pay-TV subscriber losses, with a total of 1.18 million during the year. During the fourth quarter, the tracked cable operators lost 195,000 video subscribers.

Last month Strategy Analytics released its Digital Television Operator Performance Benchmarking: Europe Q3 2014 report, which concluded that many operators are targeting multiplay bundling opportunities, by combining mobile businesses with wireline broadband and pay-TV. These moves are, in part, to offset a slowing in the pay TV business, as much of the digital transition has already been completed, the report found. The tracked European operators showed a 4.1 per cent growth rate in total TV service subscriptions over the twelve months through the third quarter of 2014. This is a slow down in the growth rate we saw through the third quarter of 2013, where the tracked operators grew at 5.7 per cent.

www.strategyanalytics.com

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