Cord-cutting is happening at speed. We already knew that, and cable companies have been prepping for a while. But one thing no-one foresaw is just how quickly people would ditch their cable contracts the second they had the opportunity.
A report from Kagan, a market intelligence firm, claims that 1.2 million people ditched traditional pay TV in July, August, and September. That’s the first time a single-quarter loss has topped 1,000,000 customers, and it’s a new all-time record for the pay TV industry.
Satellite TV continues to be the hardest-hit sector. It lost 618,000 subscribers in the third quarter, making up 53% of total pay TV losses, despite the fact that satellite accounts for a fraction of that. Traditional cable isn’t doing quite as badly, sitting at 367,000 losses. That’s nearly half of the 801,000 traditional cable customers the industry has lost so far in 2017.
Cable TV companies are struggling to adapt to the sudden and dramatic change in the marketplace. AT&T is a prime example: the company has successfully launched DirecTV Now, one of the better internet-only streaming services. But the base package is $40, way less than the $100 that families traditionally spend on a cable bundle. Worse, AT&T is currently giving away DirecTV Now for $10 to wireless subscribers, meaning it’s not making them any real money at the moment.
Fundamentally, the market is transitioning from a series of regional monopolies to a competitive national market. You can already buy streaming TV from AT&T, YouTube, Hulu, Fubo, or Sling, and those services are available in most markets nationwide. It’s no coincidence that $40 a month is the standard price for around 50 channels — that’s about what it costs to sell the service, plus minor overheads for technology and customer service. Streaming TV is going to mean cheaper TV, which is fantastic and long-overdue for consumers, but awful for the bottom line of cable TV providers.