vMVPD collecting more than double revenue per channel vs. traditional pay-TV services, misleading study suggests

Virtual pay-TV service operators are collecting more than twice as much revenue per channel than what traditional cable, satellite and telco video platforms are collecting, according to a study conducted by Ampere Analysis

According to the research, linear pay-TV operators are collectively receiving 23 cents per channel per user, while operators of virtual services are getting, on average, 59 cents for every channel they sell to a subscriber each month. 

DirecTV Now, Ampere said, is collecting 54.5 cents for every channel it streams to a customer each month, while AT&T’s linear DirecTV Now “Ultimate” tier yields only 27.8 cents per channel. 

“For channels, then, the shift to streaming looks like a potentially strong play,” Ampere said in its report. 

Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than suggesting that a $35-a-month DirecTV Now user is generating more revenue for programmers than the $75 Ultimate satellite customer. 

We can probably start and end with the number of channels involved: The premium satellite package has more than 245 versus just north of 60 for the base DirecTV Now skinny bundle, meaning programmers are monetizing a lot more of their networks. This may explain why NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke took such a lukewarm tone regarding vMVPDs during Comcast’s second-quarter earnings call last month.

“So the over-the-top services that have been launched so far are doing about as we expected they would do,” Burke said, according to a transcript provided by Seeking Alpha. 

“And they're not all that material to our business,” he added. “They've all launched. They have subscribers. We have deals in place with all of them. They're actually very favorable. So from an NBCUniversal point of view, if someone goes to an over-the-top provider, it's actually slightly better. But it's a very tough business. And as we've said before, we're skeptical that it's going to be a very large business or profitable business for the people that are in it. And they're off to a relatively slow start.”