US pay-TV may have taken a dip, but there’s no need to despair just yet, writes Julian Clover.
A couple of years ago as the dark clouds gathered over the financial markets the pay-TV sector was clear. Viewers would hold onto their subscriptions because it represented good value and a cheap night’s entertainment.
So what’s this from the US? A suggestion that the economy there may be to a blame for a record drop in subscriber numbers? Cable has taken the bulk of the hit, six out of eight MSOs reporting their own individual worst performances. DTH and IPTV operators added subscribers, though the DBS total of 81,000 is nothing in a country the size of the United States.
SNL Kagan, which compiled the report, attributed the losses to a combination of the economy and the US digital switchover. It may or not be a blessing that the online video services that many would like to attribute to any subscriber erosion aren’t yet a part of the picture. Besides, people need broadband to view such services, and a well-priced triple play bundle will always keep a customer in the game.
US operators are ahead with the multiscreen concept, putting video onto TV, PC and mobile, and locking the customer in to an extension of the living room wherever they are.
Around the world countries have moved in and out of recession with differing results. With digital switchover and he accompanying new services also in the mix it is somewhat difficult to ascertain if an operator is performing well or not.
Like the US as a whole, UPC Nederland has faced challenges from DTT and IPTV, both watched over by telco KPN. The result is such that the operator effectively declared success this quarter when it stopped suffering video losses.
Spain, which along with Portugal, has suffered the most from the economic downturn. DTH provider Digital+ has been through 10 consecutive quarters of negative subscriber growth, though reported June to be the first month in which its net subscribers actually increased.
At the same time the UK has seen a resurgent Virgin Media continue to grow subscribers and ARPU – losing subscribers is one thing, a fall in revenue something completely different – as Sky closes in on the magic ten million.
Evidence suggests that the pay-TV bubble may have just floated off a little, but is far from bursting point.