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SNL Kagan: U.S. Pay TV Subscriptions Dropped By 250K in 2013

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The economy is getting better, but U.S. pay TV subscriptions showed an annual decline for the first time ever. That news comes from media analyst firm SNL Kagan, based on its estimates for the cable, satellite, and telco industries through the end of 2013.

Pay TV providers ended the year with around 100 million subscribers, collectively down by 251,000. The fourth quarter was actually a positive one, with pay TV adding 40,000 subscribers, but that number was down year-over-year and wasn't enough to make up for the deficit.

Cable lost the most subscribers, down 2 million for the year. By the end of the year, it had under 54.4 million basic subscriptions. While growth slowed for satellite providers Dish and DirecTV, both gained subscribers in 2013. Most of the gain came from DirecTV. Satellite ended the year with 34.3 million subscribers. Telcos, led by AT&T U-verse, also had a positive year.

SNL Kagan's numbers help frame the ongoing debate of whether or not online video companies are eroding the pay TV market. While an overall loss of a quarter million subscribers isn't cause for alarm, and pay TV advocates will see it as a minor aberration, it could well mark the beginning of a trend where many U.S. households get their video entertainment entirely through streaming sources. 

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