Video Subscriptions dropped for the first time in 2013, Broadband Subs increased

What: Multichannel video subscriptions fell by 251,000 to about 100 million during 2013, marking the first full-year decline, SNL Kagan reports. Separately, the number of broadband subscribers continued to grow, with a net addition of 2.6 million new customers.
Why it matters: The annual dip illustrates a longer-term downward pressure despite any economic improvement. The video market is far closer to the saturation point than the broadband market.

Photo: David Jones. Creative Commons Licence.

According to a SNL Kagan  report, the US multichannel segment declined in subscriptions, estimated for cable, DBS and telco offerings at the end of 2013. While quarterly declines have become routine for industry watchers, the annual dip foresees a longer-term downward pressure despite any economic improvement. The trio of platforms’s total indicates that service providers collectively missed 251,000 in 2013, dipping to 100 million combined subscriptions. The industry added 40,000 video subscriptions in the fourth quarter, slightly weaker on a year-over-year basis and not enough to balance the broader downward momentum.

US video subscribers and Household trends

Q3 `13 to Q4 `13 (000)

Q4 `12 to Q4 `13 (000)

Q4 `11 to Q4 `13 (000)

















Occupied HHs




Source: SNL Kagan
Note: Changes in thousands

However, the fourth-quarter subscription bump did not carry enough magnitude to lift the penetration rates sequentially.Housing formation was modest but still outpaced new subscriptions. Temporarily occupied and occasional use housing units produces a sequential net gain of 197,000 occupied units to nearly 115 million at year-end.

Losses from cable providers fueled the overall declines.SNL Kagan estimates cable operators lost nearly 2 million video subscriptions for the full year and 388,000 in the fourth quarter to finish 2013 with fewer than 54.4 million basic subs.

DBS growth slowed in the fourth quarter as both DISH Network Corp. and DIRECTV focused on high-value customers. The segment gained 101,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, contributing to a year-end gain of 170,000 subscribers. Nearly all of the annual gain was contributed by DIRECTV. Despite the loss of 162,000 subscribers in second quarter 2013, the DBS segment ended at 34.3 million subscribers.

The telco segment finished the year strong, led by AT&T Inc.’s U-verse:

    • FiOS and AT&T Inc. U-verse reached 10.7 million at the end of the fourth quarter, behind net adds of 286,000.
    • CenturyLink Inc.’s PrismTV gained 9,000 subscribers to end at 175,000 customers
    • Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc.’s IPTV product added 1,000 customers to end the year with 110,000.

Broadband Subs grow

Separately research by the Leichtman Group established that the number of broadband subscribers continued to grow in 2013, with a net addition of 2.6 million new customers. The seventeen largest cable and telephone providers in the U.S., representing about 93 percent of the market, acquired over 2.6 million net additional high-speed Internet subscribers in 2013. Annual net broadband additions in 2013 were 95 percent of the total in 2012.

“At the end of 2013, the top broadband providers in the US cumulatively had over 84.3 million subscribers, adding 2.6 million subscribers in the past year,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG. “With top Telco providers focused on upgrading customers from DSL to fiber broadband services, cable providers accounted for over 80 percent of the net broadband adds in 2013.”