Cable TV Has Worst Quarter Ever As Cord Cutting Surges

cable tv lost

Experts have been projecting the end of cable television for over a decade now, and it looks like the numbers may be starting to back up that notion in a big way. The first quarter of 2017 was the worst ever for pay television, with more then 750,000 subscribers calling it quits.

That means Q1 2017 losses for traditional paid television were five times as large the first three months of 2016, when 141,000 subscribers left. And if the price continues to climb, that number isn’t going anywhere.

In the MoffettNathanson’s Cord Cutting Monitor, Craig Moffett writes “For the better part of fifteen years, pundits have predicted that cord cutting was the future.” And the future has arrived, it appears.

Paid television shrinking at a rate of just under 2.5%, which admittedly doesn’t seem like a lot. But that makes for the highest rate of decline and the highest acceleration in decline ever. Overall since 2013, cord cutting homes and “cord-never” homes (which are homes that have never even started a cable subscription) rose to over 6.5 million.

When Q1 2017 cord nevers and cord cutters are combined, almost 1 million homes either cut cable or chose not to take it. That number is even worse for cable when you realize only 155,000 new homes formed in this time period. Just 10 years ago, 80 percent of those homes would have been signing up for cable.

What’s most important to take away from these numbers is that cord cutting is only limited by supply. Both Dish and Charter have blamed their high customer loss rates on the fact that they’re each offering aggressive pricing, and customers are simply bouncing back and forth. But Moffett disagrees, saying “Cutting the cord isn’t just a matter of whether pay TV operators are or aren’t offering promotions. Those subscribers have to have somewhere to go.”

No matter the cause though, it’s naive to think this is the worst, says Moffett. “Instead, this is almost certainly just the beginning.”

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Artie Beaty

Artie Beaty is a freelance writer from North Carolina who follows the world of streaming closely on a daily basis. Contact him at or on Twitter @AboutCharlotte.
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