The bad news for cable TV channels continues to come streaming in as Nielsen releases new subscriber numbers.
Over the last year cable channels lost on average 2.7% of their subscribers. Although that may not seem like many, it is a startling number when you realize there are over 90 million pay-TV subscribers. Some channels have been hit harder such as ESPN (down 4%) and ESPN 2 (down 4.1%). Discovery Family dropped 4.5% of its subscriber numbers and the Travel Channel dropped 4.1%.
Only a few channels saw growth—mostly newer channels such as Fox Sports 2 that is just being added to many basic cable packages. But, overall, most channels are losing subscribers, including channels owned by Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Time Warner, Discovery, and Viacom.
Although the viewership numbers are bad, many cable channels are keeping their revenue strong. The reason why revenue is not dropping as fast as subscriber count is most cable networks have garmented contracts with pay-TV providers: No matter how many people subscribe they are garmented payment.
However, as subscriber numbers drop and contract renewal time approaches, channels are likely to start seeing lower payment amounts, which is something we may already be seeing as contract fights seem to be more commonplace than a few years ago.
So cord cutting is taking its toll on cable channels, but it will just take some time for them to feel it.
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