Cord cutting even worse than ‘freaking ugly’ in Q3

With many of biggest U.S. pay TV providers already having reported third-quarter results, analyst firm MoffettNathanson outlined a cord-cutting picture even more dreadful than the previous quarter.

In July, after AT&T, Charter and Comcast reported an aggregate of more than 1.2 million video subscriber losses, MoffettNathanson called it “freaking ugly.” Now, the firm is struggling for a phrase to describe the escalating situation.

“Since AT&T provided initial guidance of massive subscriber losses in early September, media investors have been bracing for an even uglier quarter than 2Q, which we labelled ‘freaking ugly,’” wrote Michael Nathanson in a research note. “Well, with earnings now in the books for Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter, we can definitively say that the early read on tradition cord-cutting is uglier than before.”

According to the firm, those four video distributors have reported 1.74 million in aggregate video subscriber losses, 1.23 million worse than the 506,000 aggregate subscribers lost in the year-ago quarter. AT&T accounted for the biggest share of those losses. The company lost approximately 1.16 million premium video subscribers (DirecTV and U-verse) and lost another 195,000 AT&T TV subscribers for a total of about 1.358 million during the quarter.

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As a result of the losses posted so far, MoffettNathanson estimates the rate of traditional cord cutting will hit 6.2% in the third quarter (the worst it’s ever been). After factoring in virtual MVPD additions, the rate comes down to 3.8% but that’s still a new low for the rate of all-in cord cutting.

“Even if Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV crush expectations this quarter, we still expect to see a dramatic continued acceleration in the rate of pay TV subscriber declines,” Nathanson wrote. The firm also noted that its vMVPD estimates don’t account for the fact that PlayStation Vue is shutting down in January.

Comcast lost 238,000 video subscribers (222,000 residential and 16,000 business video customers) during the quarter. The total losses were substantially higher than the 106,000 Comcast lost in the same quarter of 2018.

Charter posted a net loss of 75,000 video subscribers, as 77,000 lost residential subscribers were offset only somewhat by 2,000 new small and medium business video subscribers. The loss outpaced the 54,000 video subscribers Charter gave back in the year-ago quarter, but was an improvement over the 141,000 lost in the second quarter of 2019.

Verizon reported a net loss of 67,000 Fios video subscribers.