MoffettNathanson LLC. is an independent sell-side research boutique. The firm covers media and telecom; software; retail; and retail internet areas. A new report from the firm, first reported by Fortune, shows that consumers are ditching their cable and satellite TV packages at near record levels in 4Q18. Cord-cutting was so massive last year that big cable companies could not offset the losses with internet or TV subscriptions.
The report said the total number of pay-TV subscribers dropped 4.1% from the prior year, the highest rate of decline since 2010. Approximately 985,000 more customers cut cable or satellite in the quarter than signed up for a new service.
The drop did not surprise Craig Moffett, the Founding Partner at MoffettNathanson LLC., who said "the satellite operators are dead men walking has been obvious to all for some time, and the cable operators, while actually not doing all that badly in video, have made clear that they increasingly view their core business to be broadband, not video," adding that "it may not be an overstatement to say that the pay-TV business as we know it is beginning to unravel."
Moffett had another warning; it was the fate of cable channel packages offered over the internet. Most providers, like Google’s YouTube TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now, had to increase prices in 2018 to account for higher costs charged by big cable, so online subscriber growth slowed. The number of consumers who signed up for internet packages was 740,000 in 4Q18, down from a 900,000 gain a year earlier.
The cable bundle has become very unappealing as consumers gravitate to multichannel live TV streaming services, like AT&T Watch TV, Philo, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu, Netflix, and PlayStation Vue.
Fortune says the cord-cutting trend is similar to the consumers in the mid-2000s dropping landline phones for cellphones.
Another research shop has echoed a similar deterioration narrative for big cable. Leichtman Research Group says 79% of households paid for traditional cable or satellite service in 2018, down from 84% in 2014 and the all-time peak of 88% in 2010.