Barring any major fourth quarter turnaround (a traditionally slower time for new TV subscription signups), there is nothing to suggest this trend slowing, either. AT&T, Dish Network Inc. and others are offering cheaper, online-only versions of cable to lure customers back, but that means having to accept thinner profit margins.
With AT&T revealing this week that it lost around 390,000 linear satellite and telco TV customers in the third quarter, UBS analyst John Hodulik is predicting that the entire pay-TV sector hemorrhaged over 1 million customers during the three-month period.
Signs are emerging that the pay-TV ecosystem is in full-blown crisis mode. The five biggest TV providers are projected to have lost 469,000 customers in just the third quarter. Charter Communications Inc., the second-biggest cable US company, is now fighting with Viacom over a distribution deal that could lead to a blackout of Viacom's channels for millions of its customers.
Experts are saying that 2017 is on pace to have biggest pay-TV subscriber losses ever.
But with video subscriptions falling, Stephenson is also under pressure to prove he can keep people paying for TV in the first place. 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.
AT&T stock is down 4 percent to $36.62 in afternoon trading.
Netflix, which is thought to be one of the benefactors of the increase in cord-cutting because former customers of cable and satellite television have flocked to the service, saw shares increase by 1%, which give the business an $84.6 billion market cap that was more than 21 Century Fox, CBS and Viacom combined. Viacom dropped 2.5 percent while AMC Networks Inc. fell 6.8 percent after Guggenheim Securities LLC downgraded the two stocks to neutral from buy.