The good news for the traditional subscription TV industry: subscriber counts across the cable/satellite/telco television services industry grew by 380,000 in 2011. The bad news? Growth of satellite and telco subscriptions, which had been driving the entire so-called multi-channel programming distributor sector (MVPD), slowed down last year. For a business increasingly challenged by the emergence of on-demand streaming alternatives like Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) and Aereo, this could be an unpleasant harbinger.
According to the Leichtman Research Group, the top 14 MVPD operators — which collectively cover about 94 percent of all pay TV homes in the U.S. — added 380,000 subscriptions in 2011. That was about 175,000 fewer than it added in 2010. The blood loss slowed for cable in 2011, Leichtman found. The top 10 cable companies in the U.S. lost just over 1.6 million subscribers last year, a slight improvement over the nearly 1.8 million they hemorrhaged in 2010.
But top satellite carriers DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) and Dish Network (NSDQ: DISH), which helped drive MVPD growth in 2010 with 696,000 net additions, added only 496,000 in 2011.
Meanwhile, telco-based services Verizon FiOS and AT&T (NYSE: T) U-verse also slowed down their additions, with 2011’s net subscriber increase coming in at 1.5 million compared to just over 1.6 million the year before.
Subscriber growth did, however, pick up for the top 14 MVPD companies in the fourth quarter of last year, with net additions coming it at 230,000 compared to just 90,000 at the end of 2010.