The number of pay-TV homes, closely watched by industry analysts concerned about cord cutting and cord shaving, is down just 0.7%, according to Nielsen’s estimates for September.
However, according to analyst Brian Wieser, while that number is smaller than the 2% declines seen in recent months, it is affected by the 1.7% increase in Nielsen’s estimate for the total universe of TV homes, which was released last week for the 2016-17 TV season.
It was the first increase in the TV universe since 2014.
Wieser says subscriber figures for individual networks are determined as a percentage of the total number of TV households. That means that even as the total number of households was rising, the number of pay TV subscribers was falling.
Wieser notes that the rate of decline for individual networks fell slower than the average at 0.5%, which he says suggests that “cord shaving was not particularly significant in the past month, vs. prior months.”
“Regardless of the data that is described here, 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,” Wieser said. "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. Disney and Time Warner appear to be the public company network groups most negatively impacted in the new data, while Fox fares best.”
Among individual networks owned by the big media companies, the networks losing the most subs were Viacom’s CMT, down 6.5%, and Spike, down 5%. Disney's ESPN and ESPN2, a focus for subscriber loss, were down 2.4%.
Among the networks on the upside were 21st Century Fox’s Fox Sports 2 and Fox Movie Channel and Discovery's Velocity, all up by about 10%.