Nielsen estimates that the number of homes with cable TV subscriptions will be down 2.2% in June, and that the average network will see its penetration drop by 3%.
The TV business and Wall Street are keeping a close watch on subscriber numbers to track the pace of cord cutting and the effect it will have on distribution revenues.
The June drop is relatively big, according to analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research, although it probably undercounts the pace of household growth and excludes new OTT pay services including Sling and Vue.
“However, on balance, the figures are consistent with the notion that cord shaving is impacting owners of cable networks,” Wieser said in a research note Friday. “We note that affiliate fees are not necessarily impacted in the short-term as distributors will often be obliged to pay for certain minimum subscriber levels. Still, over longer time horizons we think that the trends captured by Nielsen are likely to be reflected in the subscriber numbers that programmers get paid for.”
For Disney, ESPNU was down 4.2%, leading to a 3.6% median decline among its networks. Viacom networks averaged a 3.6% decline, with CMT down 5.8%.
Fox networks FXM , Fox Deportes, Fox Sports 2 and FXX all grew compared to a year ago.
Wieser says that among the 119 networks measured by Nielsen, 31 were up in the June estimates.