There’s a zombie apocalypse on cable this morning: a new report from Leichtman Research showing crowds of U.S. subscribers disappearing and lurching to life elsewhere.
In the past quarter, major cable providers lost 264,000 customers, about 0.5 percent of their base, according to Leichtman, a New Hampshire-based media-research firm. That brings the decline to 3.2 percent over the past 12 months, the first year-long period of net losses for the cable companies in at least a decade.
Some of those folks are cobbling together their couch time with rabbit ears, Roku, Apple TV (AAPL), Hulu, and Netflix (NFLX). But in the aggregate, the numbers don’t show straight cord-cutting; rather, what’s evident is a shift to competing technologies. Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T), for example, together added 1.3 million video customers in the past year, a 12 percent increase, according to the report. Satellite-based services DirecTV (DTV) and Dish Network (DISH) had small gains as well.
Cable executives have been watching this bloodletting for some time. If anything, the new data suggest how important it is for media companies to make money in a number of different ways. From that perspective, it’s no surprise that a company such as Time Warner (TWC), which saw almost 5 percent of its cable subscribers disappear in the past 12 months, is weighing a stake in Hulu.
Comcast (CMCSA) already has a Hulu stake and gets almost 40 percent of its revenue from NBCUniversal.
Consumers these days are samplers—spreading their entertainment investments all over the place. Savvy TV executives are starting to do the same.