Subscriber Losses Hammer TV Providers' Stocks

Its newer, cheaper online cable-like service, DirecTV Now, added 300,000 subscribers in the quarter, indicating that AT&T lost about 390,000 satellite TV and cable customers in the quarter.

Based on our estimates, along with data showing that in the third quarter alone there have been close to 470,000 cancellations, we predict the 2017 cable TV cancellations will surpass somewhere between 1.8 and 1.9 million people.

Signs are emerging that the pay-TV ecosystem is in full-blown crisis mode.

AT&T partly blamed competition from over-the-top services for subscriber losses in its satellite business, but it's unclear how many satellite defectors ended up moving to DirecTV's own streaming service. The same night, Viacom cautioned that its distribution deal with Charter Communications Inc., the second-biggest cable USA company, may lead to a blackout, potentially testing whether millions of viewers are willing to go without MTV and Nickelodeon.

An analyst on Wall Street said that expecting a drop of 350,000 traditional television subscribers at AT&T for the quarter, but that will be exceeded by more than 40,000.

To compete, AT&T, Dish Network, and others are now offering cheaper, online-only versions of cable to lure customers back.

Barring a major fourth-quarter comeback, 2017 is on course to be the worst year for conventional pay-TV subscriber losses in history, surpassing last year's 1.7 million, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

AT&T stock is down 4 percent to $36.62 in afternoon trading.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the wheels are falling off of satellite TV", said Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC, in a research note. Viacom dropped 2.5 percent while AMC Networks Inc. fell 6.8 percent after Guggenheim Securities LLC downgraded the two stocks to neutral from buy. Only one of the large conglomerates, 21st Century Fox, recorded a gain, a paltry one-tenth of 1 percent.

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