Subscriber Losses Hammer TV Providers' Stocks

AT&T: Darned If They Do, Darned If They Don't

AT&T: Darned If They Do, Darned If They Don't

Cord-cutting is accelerating, and investors are more interested in the fact that DirecTV's satellite customers are leaving that more profitable business than they are in the fact that DirecTV's own option for cord cutters is gaining momentum.

According to Leichtman Research Group, the top 11 providers representing more than 95% of the USA pay-TV market lost around 374,000 customers in the third quarter.

While it said there were several reasons, including changing credit standards for its new members and hurricanes, its comment that said video net losses had been driven by the increased competition in traditional pay television markets as well as over the top services. The same night, Viacom cautioned that its distribution deal with Charter Communications Inc., the second-biggest cable US company, may lead to a blackout, potentially testing whether millions of viewers are willing to go without MTV and Nickelodeon.

Signs that more people are dropping their traditional TV subscriptions are weighing on TV providers' stocks.

To compete, AT&T, Dish Network, and others are now offering cheaper, online-only versions of cable to lure customers back.

Experts are saying that 2017 is on pace to have biggest pay-TV subscriber losses ever. According to research firm eMarketer, 16.7 million USA adults had already cut the cord by the end of last year and that by the end of this year it will be 22 million.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the wheels are falling off of satellite TV", said Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC, in a research note.

AT&T sank 6.1 percent, the biggest one-day loss since November 2008. Shares of cable companies Comcast and Charter and rival satellite TV provider Dish are also down.

Shares of AMC Networks, Discovery Communications, Viacom, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Time Warner, and E.W. Scripps Co. fell about 4 percent on average.

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