Forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but cable companies just had another dismal quarter of subscriber losses. The top five publicly traded cable companies logged their worst first-quarter losses on record, according to a report from Kagan. Although the industry is citing a growing streaming business as a cause for optimism, the fact remains that streaming services are barely making any money right now (and may be losing cash on every new subscriber!), and there’s no indication they can ever supply the kind of profits the cable monopolists are used to.
Kagan reports that the top five cable companies lost 235,000 subscribers in Q1 2018, way up from the 100,000 lost in the same quarter last year. Even when counting satellite and the growing streaming services, things aren’t good: Combined cable, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and telecom multichannel subscriptions fell 0.8 per cent sequentially, to 93.2 million, according to the report.
The report tries hard to soften the blow of cord-cutting by pointing out the growth of streaming services, the two biggest of which are owned by AT&T and Dish, two of the satellite providers hit hardest by subscriber losses. “Noteworthy gains for virtual platforms DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV put the evolution of the sector in perspective; the quarterly subscription losses are cut in half when including DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV and raise the overall residential figure to 94.1 million,” Kagan’s report pointed out.
The problem with that, from the perspective of the cable industry, is that streaming services are making little to no money. As streaming is accessible by anyone with an internet connection and a credit card, there’s nationwide competition, which has kept prices pegged to around $40 per month, rather than the $105 per month that the average cable package costs. When you add in aggressive promotions that AT&T is offering to its wireless and home internet customers to sign up for DirecTV Now, it’s clear that the price (and, arguably, the subscriber growth) isn’t sustainable.