2ND UPDATE 2:16 PM: The NPD Group today issued a “data clarification” about its Monday press release that said its study found that streaming services are gaining while premium cable channels are losing subscribers. A day after Showtime refuted those findings, NPD Group said it should not have called our declines for HBO and Showtime.”Upon further examination of the results,” the group said in the release, “there is data supporting the conclusion that individual subscribers are either subscribing to more channels, or adding channels over time.” Here’s the full statement: “A recent press announcement from The NPD Group that was released on Monday, January 20, 2014 (‘Cord Shaving? SVOD Subscribers Increase, as Premium TV Subscribers Decline, According to The NPD Group’) should not have called out declines in subscribers for specific premium TV channels, HBO and Showtime. The data used for the press release pertains to aggregate results for all premium TV channels and does indicate that the overall number of subscribers has declined, based on a representative sample of the U.S. population. However, upon further examination of the results, there is data supporting the conclusion that individual subscribers are either subscribing to more channels, or adding channels over time. In that case, faithful premium channel subscribers are becoming more so – which would be consistent with the subscription increases being reported by individual channels.”
UPDATED 3:14 PM Tuesday: Not so fast, Showtime says. The premium channel issued a release today saying the “NPD Group ‘study’ does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts.” Showtime says that not only has it added 1M subs in six of the past seven years, but premium rivals HBO, Cinemax and Starz also have increased subs during that period. Here’s the full statement: “Contrary to erroneous reports published this week, Showtime and every other premium network have increased both subscribers and penetrations over the last two years. A study released by the NPD Group claimed the opposite, comparing gains made by video services like Netflix to the performance of premium cable. The study does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts. According to SNL Kagan, from March 2012 through September 2013 – the timeframe the NPD Group allegedly measured — Showtime penetration grew from 21.1 percent to 22.8 percent; HBO penetration rose from 28.2 percent to 29.2 percent; Cinemax penetration climbed from 11.2 percent to 13.6 percent and Starz penetration jumped from 19.9 percent to 22 percent. While it is true that video services like Netflix have gained, so too have premium cable channels.”
PREVIOUS, Monday PM: The NPD Group doesn’t know, but suspects there is based on responses to the consumer surveys that went into its report today on The State Of SVOD. “Potentially people are making trade-offs, and I underline the word ‘potentially’,” SVP of Industry Analysis Russ Crupnick tells me. The research firm observes that over the last two years the number of households subscribing to premium channels including HBO, Showtime, and Starz fell six percentage points to 32%. Over the same period, the share of homes with a streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus rose four percentage points, to 27%.
“As SVOD increasingly strives to become a channel itself, viewers might consider it to be an adequate substitution for other premium channels, or perhaps they are switching to economize on their time and money spent,” Crupnick says. Netflix dominates the online business, of course. Still, NPD notes that its two top streaming rivals are inching ahead. Netflix’s share of shows and movies watched by online viewers declined 3 percentage points to 90% last year. Over the same period Hulu Plus was up 2 points to 8% and Amazon Prime was up 1 point to 2%. The data come from NPD’s VideoWatch Digital consumer tracker and Video Omnibus Study which regularly surveys 7,500 people who represent people aged 13 and older.