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Cord-cutting continues: Cable loses subscribers again in 3rd quarter

By Cecilia Kang

For the second quarter in a row, more consumers canceled their cable and satellite television subscriptions, according to analysts.

The closely watched third-quarter subscriber figure was attributed to the economic downturn that has some households rethinking monthly expenses. But the data also gives momentum to the questions over whether Internet television -- programs on and Netflix -- are cutting into the core cable business.

Craig Moffett, an analyst at Bernstein Research, wrote in a report Friday that in earnings announcements this week by the biggest cable companies, the industry appeared to have lost about 108,000 subscribers in the third quarter. The biggest firms (Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and Cablevision), representing 75 percent of all cable and satellite viewers, actually saw small gains in subscribers. But Moffett estimates losses by smaller paid-television providers will bring the overall industry to net subscriber losses.

The cable and satellite industry lost about 141,000 subscribers in the second quarter -- a first for the industry. That statistic, combined with reports by Netflix of booming subscriber numbers for its streaming service, has some analysts saying users are canceling cable service and going all Internet. That trend isn't being tracked, but some in the industry disagree. Tivo, for example, said in an interview with Post Tech that television viewers will stick with their cable and satellite services (mostly for sports and other live shows) and supplement that with Internet video.

"The evidence suggests that poverty is the problem," Moffett wrote. "But public sentiment, particularly among the technology press, strongly favors the Internet substitution thesis, and we don't expect that to change."

Other stories of interest:

Cable cord-cutting just a snip, but that may be changing

Post Tech on WAMU's Kojo Show about cord cutting

Tivo bets against cord cutting

Public interest groups call for investigation of TV Everywhere

Networks block Web-based shows from Google TV

Breaking down the battle over Internet TV

By Cecilia Kang  | November 5, 2010; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  Comcast, FCC, Google, Media, Net Neutrality, Online Video  
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Come on now! How many households have fast enough internet access that they can download HD movies from Netflix? And if they have been canceling their cable and satellite links how exactly are they downloading from the internet? All of these articles about the demise of cable and satellite TV forget that there is a constraint in the form of a lack of high speed internet pipe.

Posted by: ianstuart | November 5, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

"Come on now! How many households have fast enough internet access that they can download HD movies from Netflix? And if they have been canceling their cable and satellite links how exactly are they downloading from the internet? All of these articles about the demise of cable and satellite TV forget that there is a constraint in the form of a lack of high speed internet pipe."

AT&T DSL Elite, 6 mbps speed is comparable to cable modems. And you don't need to get a landline either. DSL without a landline is $45/month plus tax.

Posted by: coakl | November 6, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

It would appear that they are getting internet via cable, but choosing not to subscribe to cable TV. Not really a contradiction, ianstuart. These are two separate services.

Posted by: FrankIBC | November 6, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

It's also worth noting that as any industry matures, constant growth is no longer likely, or even possible. Twenty years ago, there were still plenty of potential customers who didn't yet have access to affordable pay-television services. Now, the vast majority of the low-hanging fruit has done been gathered.

Posted by: Bob-S | November 6, 2010 1:33 AM | Report abuse

Unmentioned is that some folks are figuring out that with the proper choice of antennae, and some luck, many can get fabulous reception and plenty of content over the air for free ... and be liberated from all of these scoundrels like Comcast and Verizon.

Posted by: gitarre | November 6, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

I "cut the cord" years ago. Netflix downloads and DVDs get me what I want in the house when I want it. And if they try to limit Netflix I'll just go back to DVDs. Nice to see I was an "early adopter" for a change...

Posted by: dprpl | November 6, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Yes, some of this...maybe most....may be economy driven. TV via cable, satellite is generally higher quality and easier to navigate. But does anyone think that the trend is not toward more bandwidth (higher quality) and easier navigation?

Posted by: rjma1 | November 6, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I discontinued my cable and newspaper home delivery several years ago and never looked back. I save about $750 a year. Newspapers I can read over the internet and TV is nothing but a colossal waste of time anyway. Now if I could just figure out a way to divorce Verizon.

Posted by: brewstercounty | November 6, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Still on cable, but each year when they "re-price" my service I jawbone them down. This year I dumped the DVR, eliminated one of three boxes for HD, and lowered the bill.
However, I see the day coming when I will cut the cord with Time-Warner completely. My phone company (Windstream) offered phone and high speed DSL for $55.00 per month FOR LIFE. Took the deal, cutting expenses there by over $50 each month. They will include DISH network for $85 for life, but I don't have a location where the dish can pick up a signal.
Streaming HULA and NETFLEX over the internet is excellent quality. Have remained on the cable only because sports and several other cable channels are offerings my family enjoys.
But, if TWC keeps on boosting its rates I will leave them out in the cold as well and just be happy with what I can get over the air and through the internet. It's up to the cable companies. Maybe they will get the message that they are pricing many people out of their service. In a year, I just might be among those leaving. Like many other cable/dish customers I can learn to live without them.

Posted by: dsmith5 | November 6, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Don't let the cable industries sand in the head denial of the very real trend fool you. It's happening and I cut the cord over a year ago and have saved a ridiculously inflated price of fifty dollars a month. Which I paid to get access to about a half dozen channels, of the hundred or so I was forced to buy in a package, that I actually want. I would have paid them to dump the religious channels, shopping channel and all the sports channels and as an added bonus am not adding to the till of the Republican parties propaganda channel FOX News.

The cable industry has sucked for years and continues to treat it's customers like crap, a snarky take it or leave it has always been the attitude. What was once a twenty dollar bill has inflated to around fifty as the scam of the 'annual rate hike' and forcing consumers to buy bundled offerings, VS the ala cart offering we want, and blocking all legislation the includes the latter makes me thrilled to no longer be a customer. But be warned: They own a lot of the pipes and without net neutrality they will be blocking netflix, hulu and the rest of the sites and making sure on-line access won't be possible for it's customer base.

Posted by: AllAmericanBoy | November 6, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Best regards for you all,

Looking forward to your visiting.

Posted by: fsafs19 | November 6, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

In business there's pigs then there's hogs. We all know companies want to make a buck so being a pig is ok. But sometimes they go over the top and become hogs .. and we all know what happens to hogs.

Recent moves like Comcast's decision to scramble everything then start charging you monthly fees, on top of cable fees, for their converter and DVR boxes was just the last straw. The fees have no basis in reality and after a year of them you could have bought your own cable or DVR box over and over.

In addition, constantly dropping and/or moving around content into tiers to grab more money from you is becoming the norm. Shamefully.

And I'm not even going to go into the additional gut punching Comcast does with their HD charges.

So, when you suddenly look up and see you're paying north of $100 a month for stuff you hardly even find important any longer, of course you look for alternatives.

It doesn't have to be this way, but Comcast made it so. Pigs and hogs baby.

Posted by: tslats | November 6, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

We have six TVs, all on separate antenas. My wife watches Dr. Phil, the Doctors, the View, the Noon news, Oraph, Judge Judy and something about quick justice, then Antiques Roadshow, As Time Goes By, etc. I watch almost nothing except now and then. I would be happy to buy DVDs (Blu Ray) but find little I want to watch. But we both read, several books a week...not literature, but fun stuff. No cable here, but at the cabin we do have to use satellite TV to get anything at all. After the digital conversion, rural areas have been abandoned by over-the-air TV due to multipath issues. Unless you are in a remote area, what do you need cable for anyway?

Posted by: funfun881 | November 6, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Bundled service is now cheap enough that I've gotten cable television for the first time.

Posted by: edbyronadams | November 6, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

To the original poster: We're currently paying $37 (total, including tax/fees) from U-Verse for 6/1mb internet, which is more than fast enough for extremely good quality signal feeds. Even still, the hiccup is in the sites' broadcasting speeds, usually limited to 2000 or 3500k / sec at the fast end, such as ESPN3.

We cut cable about 8 months ago, and don't miss it one bit. There's,, and then semi-legal streaming sites to cover the rest. I honestly don't know why we didn't cut it years ago...

Posted by: kumicho | November 6, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

In Minneapolis, Comcast doesn't raise rates per se, but they cut services. If you want the service that was just cut, you have to pay more. Their staff will swear up and down they aren't raising your rates when you call them on it and seem incapable of understanding that charging the same for less service is the same as raising rates. There's so little worth watching, that one of these days I'll join those who have cut the cable.

Posted by: MNUSA | November 6, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

First, if so many goofballs would NOT subscribe to the current junk offered by Turner et al the price would rapidly fall. But for all the 'no one has any extra money' I still see tons of people with cable and cell phones and on and on.

Also, the government ought to bring back the not so old monopoly laws and get competition back into the system and stop listening to corporate america's bull. To big to fail and lack of competition is all over. Stop the madness.

Posted by: stefano11 | November 6, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Almost forgot, it is technically possible to have all cable do selective access by all customers but that will not happen until our wonderful politicians order it to happen and give tv back to the people. Did not hear this or dozens of other issue addressed during the elections. Huh, lets see. About 5 people own most major media. Wonder why we never hear about this on tv or radio or....

Hey, politician, did you watch the latest election. Your jobs are not safe unless you start getting it right.

Eternal optimist.

Posted by: stefano11 | November 6, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

This past Summer, I first pulled the plug on satellite TV service and DSL internet in favor of cable for both TV and Internet, but got hit with so many fees and so many customer service problems that I finally cut the cord on cable TV service, too. I use my cable Internet connection for Netflix service and iTunes podcasting downloads. If I can get Hulu service on my Roku player, I may subscribe to that too. In the meantime, I'm down to the point of deciding whether or not to cut my landline phone service...

Posted by: MeowGoodness | November 6, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

I cut the cord. It's great and I save $60 a month. My 3 Mbps Verizon DSL line is more than enough for HD movies and shows from Netflix. More than 20 local channels from an antenna.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | November 8, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

People seem to think cord-cutters are moving to internet. I am a cord-cutter. I have moved primarily to Over-the-Air TV with rooftop antenna. Roughly a $200 one-time investment has given our family 30 free high definition and digital channels from all of the major broadcast networks. The picture quality is equal or better than cable/satellite. Most of our TV watching comes from over-the-air (OTA) TV. We also subscribed to Netflix but it represents a much smaller proportion of our overall TV time. We also stream TV from TV network websites.

In my opinion, trend watchers and journalists should be trying to count rooftop antennas than watching Netflix's subcriber base.

Posted by: harper_price | November 9, 2010 5:54 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm cutting mines very soon, too. In fact, I'm cutting DirecTV and Verizon. I already cut AT&T and the WA-Post about six years ago. These things are over priced anyway along with a lot of other consumer goods. Besides, they are sending to many jobs over seas. I'm tired of paying other peoples salary in other countries while Americans are put out of good paying jobs at the expenses of CEO's and stock holders....

We need health insurance INSTEAD OF ENTERTAINMENT.

Posted by: lastyear53 | November 9, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

TRINIT COMMUNICATIONS INT. to the rescue. There is a company operating on an mlm platform that is about to release technology unifying all of your digital devices providing services that will eliminate the need for cable & satellite without contracts. They will be releasing the flagship "NUCLIUS" replacing other set-top-boxes that have nowhere near the capabilities that this new box will have, such as HD video conferencing, onscreen dialing, smart-phone viewing of DVR, HD IPTV programing, and so much more integrating and unifying all of the digital technology devices at home. TRINITICOMM is the only IPTV service using mlm to get the word out just as one other company who is the Fortune 500 #1 fastest growing company in America. Who says mlm won't work. With all those advertising dollars being paid to distributors in the field, sounds like a way to provide a great source of income and provide consumers with just what the times call for in this economy. All of the monopolizing companies like Time Warner, Cox, Comcast, even the telecom vultures like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Sprint should be on the look out because "SPIRIT MOBILE" will also make a splash with prices and terms that will appeal to the masses. There is a site that you can register to be notified when these services are ready in the very, very near future @ . TRINITICOMM will be a force to be noticed. It remains to be seen how much of the market share will be scooped up by this stealth communications industry warrior. People have known that something was just around the corner in the way of relief from all the big boys tying consumers hands with contracts and blood sucking fees, and now the pressure is being lifted and you can almost hear the sigh of relief being exhaled by tight budgeted Americans everywhere. Thank God for TRINITICOMM

Posted by: shutchins | November 9, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

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