Global TV figures battered in Q3, recovery unlikely in Q4

Just 43 of the top 100 TV service providers globally experienced subscriber gains during the third quarter of 2018, the lowest since records began in a calamitous period for the industry, according to the latest Multiscreen Index from informitv. While the US market is well acquainted with cord cutting headlines, the research is a stern warning for markets further afield.

But the main question and ultimate caveat is whether the industry can recover in Q4 or be dealt a second quarterly loss in a row? Going on some of the early estimates published over the Christmas holiday period about viewing behaviors, it looks set to be another prosperous quarter for online services while satellite could suffer an almighty blow.

That said, there were no surprises to see satellite services spearhead what informitv has described as the first organic quarterly loss ever measured on a global scale, with services worldwide falling by 0.11 million (0.02%) – a tiny drop, admittedly, but a calm before the storm situation, we feel. Satellite TV services lost a total of 0.9 million subscribers, a substantially worse state of affairs than the next nearest industry, cable TV, which saw a decline of 0.22 million.

The report says online services globally added 0.09 million subscribers in the third quarter, which we feel is well below a realistic number, considering Netflix alone added over 6 million subscribers globally in Q3 and others also fared well. There were several service closures, of course, but hardly on the scale of offsetting the total growth of the OTT video market, so our guess is that informitv does not count the SVoD heavyweights and is only counting operator-run online video services. Although this would be highly illogical.

Meanwhile, telco services apparently performed miles better than any other sector, adding 0.92 million subscribers.

Partly at fault for such low figures across the board was the impossible task of living up to the heights of Q2 when the World Cup tournament took place and viewing on all platforms peaked.

Regionally, as visualized below, Asia Pacific shone with a total of 1.22 million subscriber additions in Q3, the only territory in the black. The Americas lost 1.01 million, while EMEA dropped by 0.31 million.

The US was again the home of cord cutting, where the top 10 services dropped 877,000 subscribers in Q3, now totaling 82.7 million.

The bigger picture benefits from some extra color when we revisit past Multiscreen Indexes, such as one from just two years ago when the top 100 TV services added 3.46 million subscribers during Q1 2017, an increase of 0.79%. But even this was a warning shot, showing a growth decline from 1.68% in the same period the previous year, adding 6.9 million subscribers. Even Asia Pacific’s gains of 1.22 million in Q3 look concerning when viewed alongside previous reports, such as the Q1 2017 Index, when the region added 2.39 million subs.

If we trawl back even further, we come across results like the 100 leading pay TV services in the US increasing their combined subscriber base by 0.95% in Q3 2015, despite the top 10 shedding 128,400 between them.

So, not only are the remaining 90 of the top 100 TV services worldwide now unable to offset the swelling losses incurred by the top 10, but the smaller operators in less developed markets are also beginning to feel the effects. Luckily for them, learning from the mistakes already made by the top 10 could serve as potential lifesavers – and ensuring earlier adaption to trends will be key in the coming quarters.