Digital pay TV subscribers drop again in Q3; Verizon, AT&T only bright spots

The third quarter of 2010 was another gloomy one for digital pay-TV operators, who saw new subscriber numbers decline for the second quarter in a row, Strategy Analytics reports in a new study. The biggest question, however, is why subscribers aren't signing on: Is it the economy, cord cutting, or just a seasonal trend?

Cable operator Comcast added just 219,000 digital subscribers in Q3 compared to 394,000 in the second quarter, while satellite provider Dish Network's digital subscriptions declined by 29,000 in the same period.

While AT&T's U-verse service and Verizon FiOS TV saw increases in digital subscribers--235,000 for U-verse and 204,000 for FiOS TV--a survey by Strategy Analytics found that 13 percent of pay TV subscribers plan to drop their service within the next year with no plans to sign on for another.

The survey result leaves the cord-cutting question inconclusive, but Strategy Analytics Director of Digital Consumer Practice Ben Piper sees a trend. "If two quarters of subscriber losses is a trend, would three be a pattern?" he asks. "Our research suggests that cord cutting is fast becoming a reality, and now the operator numbers bear that out."

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
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AT&T: Broadband, IP-based business services rose to the occasion in Q3
Verizon's Q3 profit drops while FiOS subscribership grows

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