Will the Last Pay-TV Subscriber Please Turn Off the Set?

While things are hardly as dire for the pay-TV industry as my title might suggest, subscription numbers for the first quarter of 2015 are far from rosy. In fact, net pay-TV adds were the lowest they’ve been in ten years.

So says Leichtman Research Study Group in their most recent analysis of the pay-TV industry.

While the first quarter of the year has typically been the strongest for adding new subscribers (due, in large part, to holiday television gift giving), Leichtman reports that the top 17 cable and telephone companies added less than 10,000 net new video subscribers in the first quarter of 2015, compared to 250,000 adds in the same time period a year previous.

Phone companies were a bright spot among the top U.S. pay-TV providers, adding a combined 140,000 new customers in the first quarter of the year: Verizon FiOS added 90,000 subscribers, and AT&T U-verse added 50,000. DBS providers were down 74,000 subscribers, with DirecTV up 60,000 and DISH down 134,000. Cable companies were down 58,264 subscribers, with Time Warner up 33,000 and Mediacom up 1,000. Others more than counteracted these gains, however—Cable ONE was down 29,884 subscribers, Cablevision 28,000, Comcast 8,000, and Suddenlink 6,400. Read more

Time Warner Cable Seizes Home Monitoring Opportunity with IntelligentHome Rollout

Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) home management and security system, IntelligentHome, is expected to be deployed throughout the majority of the company’s footprint by fall of 2013. First introduced in 2011, IntelligentHome has already expanded to serve areas in Texas, North Carolina and New York.

IntelligentHome lets customers remotely access and control their home security settings, lighting and thermostats and view real-time video of their home from a PC, tablet or smartphone. “Our technology provides professional monitoring plus direct customer access to information about the home, all with a level of flexibility and control that traditional home security systems can’t deliver. We know this is what many of our customers need and we’re excited to deliver this innovative solution that is easy to access, operate and customize,” said Darrel Hegar, regional vice president of operations, Time Warner Cable Carolinas.

“When people move, one of the first companies they call is the cable company…Those same customers often find themselves in need of home security as well, and now we can offer both in one call,” Adam Mayer, vice president of IntelligentHome stated.

IntelligentHome pricing starts at $34 per month and includes a touchscreen control system, two wireless door or window sensors, and a wireless motion detector, along with window warning stickers and a yard sign. The $34 per month base price does however require TWC Internet and another qualified TWC service with it. Read more

Time Warner CEO Disputes SVOD Preference over Premium TV

In an August 1 article, Home Media Magazine detailed recent remarks by Time Warner Cable (TWC) CEO Jeff Bewkes. Speaking to investment analysts in a meeting to discuss the TWC’s second quarter financial report, Bewkes discussed his views concerning over-the-top (OTT) subscription on-demand platforms.

Bewkes described TWC’s strategy of using YouTube as a promotional device to entice viewers to its content on TNT and HBO. He indicated that the company did not use YouTube to distribute network-length original content, as both networks already provide content by subscription through their own on-demand broadband portals. “We think it’s great the extent to which those channels can have a presence on YouTube to drive viewership on our networks,” Bewkes said.

Bewkes said in his remarks that it was HBO that pioneered distribution of on-demand original programming, focusing on the overall value of subscription video on demand (SVOD). Read more

Cox Files Countersuit Against Sprint

Bloomberg reports in an April 17 article that Cox Communications Inc. has filed suit in federal court in Delaware against its former business partner Sprint Nextel over patent infringement. The complaint is a counter suit that claims Sprint has violated two patents held by Cox. It goes on to ask that the court dismiss a suit filed by Sprint in December claiming that Cox, Time Warner Cable and Comcast had infringed upon 12 Sprint patents.

The business relationship between Sprint and Cox involved the use of Sprint’s wireless services for Cox cable customers.  The relationship reportedly went south shortly after Cox stopped using Sprint’s wireless services and agreed to sell advanced wireless services (AWS) spectrum to Verizon Wireless, joining Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Bright House Networks in a similar but separate transaction. Read more

Operators Get Creative with Broadband Billing

AT&T has received a lot of industry attention for its new, creative wireless billing proposal. The telco revealed its plans in a Wall Street Journal article, which ran earlier this week. AT&T is developing a service whereby content or app developers could somehow pay for their app to have a reduced impact on end user data caps. John Donovan, the executive responsible for AT&T’s network and technology, compared the idea to toll-free calling for the mobile-broadband world or “freight included.” Here is an excerpt from the WSJ: Read more

Cox Rolls Out a Low-Cost Package

As American consumers find themselves with less discretionary income and more video choices, large cable operators are seeking new ways to attract and retain subscribers. Last year, Time Warner Cable rolled out a $29.99 TV Essentials plan and Comcast soon followed with a $24.95 offering. It is worth noting that neither line-up includes ESPN, often the most expensive of the program networks.

This past week, Cox Cable followed suit and un-wrapped a new collection called TV Economy priced at $34.99. It also does not include ESPN. When comparing the low-cost packages with the typical expanded basic packages that might run in the $60 to $80 per month range, the multi-system operators may have created a small “bridge” to get them past the continued drain due to high consumer retail rates.

Looking ahead, one must wonder if consumers will be willing to forgo access to certain expensive programming  in exchange for lower video bills. Time and continued package modification will tell.

Industry Demands Scrutiny of Verizon-Cable Agreements

Last week Comcast and Verizon Wireless announced that they will launch a new marketing program in Seattle and Portland, Ore., selling their respective services to the other’s customers.

This is the first marketing promotion under the new landmark partnership which was announced last month, whereby Verizon Wireless agreed to pay $3.6 billion to a consortium of cable providers for 122 advanced wireless services (AWS) spectrum licenses covering approximately 259 million people, or more than 85% of the U.S. population. Additionally, the cable companies and Verizon Wireless entered into a joint re-sale, marketing and technology development agreement. Separately, just a few days later, Verizon Wireless entered into an similar agreement with Cox Communications to purchase 20 MHz of AWS spectrum licenses covering 28 million POPs for $315 million. Read more

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