Final ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Smashes HBO Viewer Records

As expected, the season-eight final episode of “Game of Thrones” broke both viewership records for the series as well as HBO.

Initial data suggests the final episode drew 19. 3 million viewers when tabulating initial broadcast, on-demand and some streaming. The tally broke the previous record set May 12 when 18.4 million people watched the penultimate episode broadcast, on-demand and streaming.

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The final season is averaging 44.2 million viewers, which is about 10 million more than season seven, according to HBO.

The previous HBO record occurred in 2002 with the fourth-season premiere of “The Sopranos,” which tracked 11.9 million viewers at a time when streaming video and on-demand distribution did not exist.

Study: Online TV Is Second-Most-Popular TV Viewing Choice in U.K., Sweden and Germany

A new survey of TV viewers in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany found that online TV is now the second most popular viewing source behind pay-TV, with usage ranging from just under 40% in Germany to more than 50% in the U.K. and Sweden.

Nielsen company Gracenote and digital media analyst firm nScreenMedia conducted the survey, “TV Universe — U.K., Sweden, Germany: How People Watch Television Today,” in the first quarter of 2019, focusing on pay TV, free-to-air and online TV viewership in the three European countries that account for 31% of the European Union’s total population, according to Statista.

The online TV viewership growth in the three countries “is a remarkable rise as online TV is a relatively new offering,” according to the research firms. In fact, Netflix launched in the United Kingdom in just 2012. Whereas 12 years ago most homes relied on a single-source for TV, today nearly half of viewers in all three of the countries studied are multi-source television households, the researchers noted.

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“Consumer behavior relating to TV viewing is changing rapidly in Europe as it is around the world,” said Simon Adams, chief product officer, Gracenote, in a statement.

Pay TV is currently the most popular television source in the U.K. and Sweden with nearly two in three consumers in each market using it, the survey found, but in Germany the most popular source is free-to-air TV, which accounts for the vast majority of viewers at nearly eight in 10.

In all three European markets surveyed, consumers pointed to on-screen program guides and user interfaces as being critical tools for finding content to watch. Six in 10 viewers indicated visual imagery and TV artwork displayed in guides exert important influence on their viewing choices. Among the 18-to-24-year-old demographic, the number jumped up to around 90%. In addition, respondents indicated TV show and movie descriptions that shed light on content are also factors in their tune-in decision-making, with 70% of U.K. viewers, 65% of Swedes and 57% of Germans saying the program descriptions were at least somewhat important.

The study also found free-to-air TV is gaining traction on mobile with more free-to-air viewers using broadcaster apps to supplement viewing than pay TV viewers use their operator “TV Everywhere” apps. In fact, more than half of free-to-air users in each country use broadcaster apps.

The smart TV is the preferred device to watch video content on in all three countries, according to the study. A significant 70% of total viewing time is on the TV screen in the United Kingdom and Germany, while in Sweden, it is 60%. Samsung is the most popular TV brand in all three countries.

Other insights include:

  • 17% of the U.K. study group use all three TV sources available to them, higher than in Sweden and Germany;
  • While the on-screen guide is the dominant way Swedes and Brits find content to watch, newspaper TV guides and channel flipping are the main ways for Germans; and
  • 31% of Swedes consider online TV to be their primary TV source, the highest of the three countries studied.

 

“The new TV Universe study shows that online TV has become the second most popular source of TV entertainment in a remarkably short period of time,” said Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst at nScreenMedia in a statement. “Also telling is the fact that, though most online viewing takes place on the television, consumers don’t have the discovery tools they need to efficiently find something to watch there. Features such as voice and cross-service search are thinly used in each country. There is also plenty of room for improvement with content recommendations as a quarter or less think they accurately reflect their interests.”

The consumer research study conducted from February to March 2019 surveyed 1,500 adult TV viewers in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. The data was weighted to represent the general population of each country. The full report is available for free download now at nScreenMedia.com.

Report: Pay-TV Providers Lost 1.3 Million Subs in Q1

It was a bad quarter for the pay-TV business.

New data from Leichtman Research Group found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. — representing about 95% of the market — lost more than 1.3 million video subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) — up 426% from a net loss of 305,000 subs in the previous-year period.

Pay-TV providers now account for about 87.8 million subscribers — with the top six cable companies having 46.7 million video subscribers, satellite TV services (28.3 million subs), telephone companies (8.9 million), and the top publicly reporting online TV with 3.9 million subs.

Satellite TV services such as Dish Network and DirecTV drove pay-TV losses with about 810,000 subs dropping service compared to a loss of about 375,000 subs in the previous-year period.

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Cable operators lost about 335,000 video subs — compared to a loss of about 285,000 subs last year. Telephone providers lost 105,000 video subs, up from a loss of 50,000 subs last year.  Online TV services lost 75,000 subs, compared to a gain of 405,000 subs last year.

Notably, AT&T had a loss of about 625,000 subs across its three pay-TV services (DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, and DirecTV Now) compared to a gain of 125,000 subscribers in 2018.

“The leading pay-TV provider in the U.S., AT&T, accounted for 47% of the net losses in the quarter,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “[The quarter] was the third consecutive [period] of record pay-TV net losses.  This accelerated downturn in the pay-TV market coincided with the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability when acquiring and retaining subscribers.”

 

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at end of 1Q 2019 Net Adds in 1Q 2019
Cable Companies
Comcast 21,866,000 (120,000)
Charter 16,461,000 (145,000)
Cox 3,980,000 (35,000)
Altice 3,297,300 (10,200)
Mediacom 764,000 (12,000)
Cable ONE 320,611 (11,500)
Total Top Cable 46,688,911 (333,700)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DirecTV 18,679,000 (543,000)
Dish Network 9,639,000 (266,000)
Total DBS 28,318,000 (809,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,398,000 (53,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,704,000 0
Frontier 784,000 (54,000)
Total Top Phone 8,886,000 (107,000)
Online TV
Sling TV 2,424,000 7,000
DirecTV Now 1,508,000 (83,000)
Total Top Online TV 3,932,000 (76,000)
Total Top Providers 87,824,911 (1,325,700)

 

 

Pay-TV Operators Lost Nearly 1.3 Million Subs in Q1

As expected, pay-TV operators lost myriad subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) due to ongoing consumer adoption of new home entertainment distribution options, including over-the-top video.

The top-10 pay-TV operators lost nearly a combined 1.3 million subscribers in the period, spearheaded by satellite TV, according to new data from Informitv. That loss is nearly 50% of all subscribers who cancelled service in 2018.

AT&T led all multichannel video program distributors with 544,000 subs lost through its DirecTV (satellite), U-verse and DirecTV Now brands. Dish Network lost 266,000 subs, or 1.2 million in the past 12 months.

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Charter Spectrum lost 152,000 subs, while Comcast lost 107,000. Verizon Fios lost 53,000, while Frontier and Mediacom lost 54,000 and 12,000, respectively. The ongoing industry losses prompted Cox Communications to stop revealing subscriber data.

The top 10 MVPD providers now penetrate about 70% of domestic households with nearly 82 million subscribers.

“They still command a significant number of customers, but the rate of attrition has increased,” Dr. William Cooper, editor of the Informitv, said in a statement.

 

 

Dish Widens Q1 Pay-TV Sub Loss as Sling TV Growth Cools

Dish Network May 3 reported it lost 266,000 pay-TV subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That compared to a loss of 185,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The nation’s fourth-largest pay-TV operator ended the period with 12 million subscribers — down almost 1.1 million subs from 13.1 millions subs last year.

The loss reflects ongoing secular changes in the pay-TV market as increasing numbers of consumers opt away from linear television toward over-the-top video products such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Now and Showtime OTT, among others.

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Separately, Dish’s pioneering online TV service, Sling TV, added just 7,000 subs in the period, compared to a gain of 91,000 subs last year. The standalone live streaming service ended the period with 2.41 million subs compared to 2.3 million subs last year.

Sling TV helped create an online TV market targeting cord-cutters and millennials that now includes PlayStation Vue, Spectrum TV Plus, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Hulu with Live TV, among others.

While subscriber growth declined, revenue per Sling customer increased. The increase was mainly driven by three factors: Customers taking higher priced packages, increased add-on revenue from extras, ad sales and cloud DVRs, and the $5 increase on the orange package implemented in the third quarter of 2018.

“Sling’s promotions have done well for us but we are focused on attracting profitable customers,” Warren Schlichting, EVP and group president, Sling TV, said on the fiscal call. “It’s a marathon not a sprint. We like where we are, we like our position in the market with our competitors taking their prices out that’s only improved ROI, and you’ll see more of the same, in the second quarter from us.”

Without Sling, Dish’s legacy satellite TV subscriber base would be about 9.6 million – down almost 4 million subs (30%) in the past five years.

Report: Video Streamers Covet TV Antenna

It may be a digital world driven by over-the-top video distribution. But as millennials opt away from traditional pay-TV, they are also embracing the old-school TV antenna, according to a new report.

Horowitz Research suggests that while TV viewers in the U.S. are experimenting with online TV services such as YouTube TV, Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue, among others, they are increasingly opting for digital antennas.

The study finds that 34% of TV content viewers are accessing OTT video content via digital antennas, which came about following the federal government’s mandated switch from analog to digital TV transmission.

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Antenna owners are younger (40% of antenna owners are 18-34 vs. 31% of total TV content viewers) and skew male (59% vs. 49% of total TV content viewers).

Among non-pay-TV subscribers, 51% report owning an antenna. Antenna owners are more likely to subscribe to one of the three major SVOD services (78% subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, vs. 67% of TV content viewers). Antennas are also popular in traditional pay-TV subscriber households: 30% of traditional subs report owning an antenna.

Horowitz’s data suggest antenna owners spend 19% of their time using an antenna, 44% streaming, and 32% through an MVPD, watching live, DVR, VOD and packaged media

“With today’s stronger signals and advances in technology, along with improved design aesthetics, antennas are re-emerging as an inexpensive and practical way of accessing TV content,”  Stephanie Wong, director of insights and strategy, said in a statement.

With new technology allowing for the recording of over-the-air content, including TiVo’s Bolt OTA, Plex, and Amazon’s Fire TV Recast, Horowitz said consumers are replacing cable with SVOD services and over-the-air broadcasts.

With the pending rollout of ATSC 3.0, which would allow for 4K resolution and enhanced sound to broadcast TV, Adriana Waterston, SVP of insights and strategy for Horowitz, contends pay-TV’s perceived advantage in picture quality and reliability is waning.

“As the broadcast industry works to improve its standards and achieve widespread adoption of ATSC 3.0 — about 40 markets by 2020, according to NAB — that advantage gap has the potential to shrink, with adoption of over-the-air viewing increasing,” Waterson said.

Comcast Sheds 107,000 Q1 Video Subs; Sky Adds 112K

Subscriber losses to linear pay-TV in the United States keep adding up.

Comcast April 25 said it lost 107,000 residential video subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That compared to a loss of 93,000 video subs in the previous-year period.

Comcast Cable ended the period with 20.8 million video subs, down 358,000 subs from the previous-year period.

The cable operator also lost 14,000 business video subs to end the period with about 1.01 million compared to 1.05 million last year.

Offsetting in part video sub declines, Comcast added 352,000 high-speed Internet customers, up 1,000 from last year.

The company ended the period with 25.4 million broadband subs compared to 24.2 million last year.

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Comcast also added 23,000 broadband business customers to top 2.1 million customers – up from 2 million in the previous-year period.

“Comcast Cable had the best quarterly [pre-tax] growth in over a decade,” Comcast chairman Brian Roberts said in a statement.

Separately, new business unit Sky upped its total subscriber count by 112,000 compared to a gain of 38,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The London-based satellite operator with business units in Germany and Italy ended the period with 23.7 million subs – up 809,000 subs from 22.9 million customers last year.

Sky generated $3.8 billion in direct-to-consumer revenue, which was down from $4.1 billion last year. DTC revenue also includes transactions such as packaged media, over-the-top video daily, weekly and monthly passes, pay-per-view and “buy-to-keep” content.

The Sky Store includes a DVD with every digital movie/TV show purchase.

Research: 30 Million Americans Have Never Paid for TV Programming

While Hollywood and media companies focus on “cord cutters” – adults who give up their cable or satellite TV subscriptions – new data from MRI – Simmons suggests millions of Americans have never paid for a traditional TV connection.

About 31 million U.S. consumers – 12% of the adult population – are so-called “cord-nevers” – up 9% from 2017. With a median age of 33, the demo’s average household income has risen by 27% over the last 2 years, from $41,500 to $52,800.

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Among cord nevers, 27% – about 8 million adults – say they plan to sign up for a pay-TV service in the next six months. Some 70% of these consumers say they will subscribe to a traditional (cable, fiber optic, or satellite) service, while 30% – 41% of 18-to-34 years olds – expect to acquire a streaming TV package, such as Hulu with Live TV, DirectTV Now, or Sling TV.

Why are millions of Cord Nevers looking to connect to pay-TV service? The reasons vary dramatically by age.

MRI’s research – based on roughly 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews – found the option to channel surf is a big motivator for those in the 35-to-49 and 50+ groups, while the youngest adults (18 to 34) are seeking access and the ability to watch and find shows easily.

Top reasons cited why “cord nevers” are looking to pay for TV access:

18+ 18 to 34 35 to 49 50+
I want to be able to channel surf 27%* 18%

(67)

46%

(168)

31%

(113)

I can get a good deal on a TV package 23% 30%

(131)

10%

(45)

15%

(67)

It is easier to watch/find shows 21% 29%

(138)

7%

(35)

11%

(53)

It is the only way to watch the TV networks I want to watch 18% 16%

(86)

23%

(122)

22%

(121)

It has better access to shows I want to watch 18% 23%

(126)

11%

(63)

9%

(50)

It is worth the expense 17% 16%

(92)

26%

(151)

4%

(22)

I want to watch live news 17% 14%

(79)

30%

(172)

6%

(37)

I want to watch live programming when it airs 16% 14%

(87)

21%

(134)

14%

(89)

I want to have a DVR service 14% 9%

(65)

26%

(185)

12%

(82)

“Young people used to say that, as soon as they got their first well-paying job, they would sign up for the full suite of traditional TV services,” Karen Ramspacher, SVP innovations & insights at MRI-Simmons, said in a statement. “Today, there are many more options for connecting to video content – so competition for these subscription dollars is fierce. As they grow in numbers and wealth, today’s ‘cord nevers’ definitely represent an opportunity for content providers – but understanding the Nevers’ underlying motivations is essential to targeting them effectively.”

 

Comcast: Lines Between Linear TV, Digital Video Blurring for Marketers

As over-the-top video expands, the differences between traditional pay-TV and streaming video are eroding, according to new data from FreeWheel, a subsidiary of Comcast.

The Video Marketplace Report outlines the increasing convergence between linear TV and premium digital video – and how that can benefit marketers.

In 2018, 40% of all ad views were delivered on a connected TV, while live viewing grew 86% as consumers watched video content in real-time – spurred by PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in Russia, according to David Dworin, one of the report’s authors.

“Watching TV can now mean tuning into a program on linear TV, streaming a favorite series on a connected TV, or following a live event on a smartphone. It’s the content, not the pipes, that viewers see,” Dworin said in a statement.

Premium video also saw strong overall growth (27%), continuing a multi-year trend, according to the report.

Indeed, FreeWheel found 52% of advertisers and agencies surveyed are combining digital video and linear TV spots and 91% say they will by 2021.

Another 74% of advertisers say it is important or very important to have integrated digital video and linear TV data/technology distribution channel.

The report cited that just 23% of viewing occurs in the key 8 to 11 p.m. timeslot, while more than 75% of viewing occurs outside of the traditional TV “primetime.”

Another 18% of desktop ad views come between 12 and 3 p.m., underscoring the ease of click-through marketing. Finally, connected TV ad views grew 53% in 2018, which represented 40% of all ad views.

 

 

Cable Trade Groups Drop ‘Cable’ Name

In an over-the-top video era driven by Netflix & Co., pay-TV can seem dated, while cable is downright old-school.

That prompted the American Cable Association to become the latest trade group move away from its legacy medium in favor of embracing rapidly-changing technology with the far-less constricting “communications” moniker.

“It’s all about the communications and connections our members provide,” Matthew Polka, CEO of the newly named American Communications Association, said in a statement.

Notably, ACA’s 700 members largely deliver cable TV to about 8 million subscribers nationwide. But with changing consumer habits toward home entertainment, many of the providers also offer high-speed Internet to remain competitive.

“Even though our industry and technology are changing so rapidly fueled by our members’ broadband deployments, what’s most important for our members and their customers is the ability to communicate freely and connect in their homes and businesses in countless new ways,” Polka said. “With this name change, we’re recognizing that communication is the priority, not the medium.”

ACA’s name change comes three years after the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) renamed itself the NCTA — The Internet & Television Association. “Just as our industry is witnessing an exciting transformation driven by technology and connectivity, NCTA’s brand must reflect the vibrancy and diversity of our members,” CEO Michael Powell said at the time.

While both trade group continue to lobby hard for cable distributors, they are loath to admit as much publicly. In feed, the NCTA’s annual “The Cable Show” was rebranded to “INTX: The Internet & Television Expo.”

Powell said the group’s mission to drive the industry forward remains unchanged.

“But, we’re no longer simply a provider of one-way video programming,” he said.