Cord cutters hurt cable but are killing AT&T

by Steve Blum • , , ,

AT&T’s overall television subscriber count is down, despite the strong growth of of its online video service, DirecTv Now. That’s according to a federal securities and exchange commission filing by the company. Even though it signed up 300,000 new online viewers to DirectTv Now in the third quarter of this year, its total video subscription count dropped by 90,000 according to the filing…

The video net losses were driven by heightened competition in traditional pay TV markets and over-the-top services, hurricanes and our stricter credit standards.

The growth in over-the-top TV viewing is actually the major reason AT&T’s total video subscriber numbers are falling, according to an article by the Washington Post’s Brian Fung

“DirecTV, like all of its cable peers, is suffering from the ravages of cord-cutting,” said industry analyst Craig Moffett in a research note this week. Moffett added that while nobody expected AT&T’s pay-TV numbers to look good, hardly anyone could have predicted they would look “this bad.”

Cord cutting is also driving down cable revenues. The solution, according to an article by Daniel Frankel in FierceCable, is to raise Internet service prices…

“MSOs would need to raise standalone broadband pricing to $80, or more, in order to break even from a contribution perspective,” UBS analyst John Hodulik said.

The good news (for operators, but not consumers, that is)? Cable companies can probably get away with it, the analyst noted.

“We find that this level of pricing (non-promo) exists in some markets already, though pricing will vary,” Hodulik explained.

Cable companies have it easier than telcos. They’re losing video revenue, but are better at hanging on to subscribers. Cable companies generally offer download speeds of 100 Mbps or (sometime a lot) more for prices comparable to what telcos will charge for a tenth of that service level. A household that wants to get TV programming via the Internet is going to be more interested in those faster speeds.