Nielsen sticks with sub­scriber re­port chal­lenged by ESPN

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

The Nielsen rat­ings agency on Fri­day reaf­firmed a re­port about US paytele­vi­sion cus­tomers that was chal­lenged by Walt Dis­ney Co’s ESPN sports net­work.

Me­dia re­ports said the Nielsen data, which showed a de­cline in sub­scrip­tions for most ca­ble net­works, sug­gested ESPN lost 621,000 sub­scribers from a month ear­lier. Nei­ther Nielsen nor ESPN re­leased the num­bers pub­licly, but ESPN ques­tioned the ac­cu­racy of the find­ings. In a state­ment on its web­site, Nielsen said an “ex­ten­sive re­view” un­der­taken af­ter ESPN ob­jected showed that es­ti­mates of ca­ble sub­scribers pro­vided on Oct. 28 were ac­cu­rate. Dis­ney shares fell nearly 1 per­cent on Fri­day to close at $92.45 on the New York Stock Ex­change. “This most re­cent snap­shot from Nielsen is a his­toric anom­aly for the in­dus­try and in­con­sis­tent with much more mod­er­ated trends ob­served by other re­spected third-party an­a­lysts,” ESPN said in a state­ment.

The fig­ures do not in­clude peo­ple who sub­scribe through dig­i­tal TV ser­vices and other new dis­trib­u­tors, the sports net­work said. Nielsen, in its state­ment, said the com­pany is re­search­ing newer providers to add those sub­scribers in fu­ture re­ports.

The fu­ture of ESPN has been a con­cern on Wall Street since Au­gust 2015 when Dis­ney Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Bob Iger ac­knowl­edged “mod­est” sub­scriber losses at the sports net­work. Dis­ney and other me­dia com­pa­nies are fac­ing chal­lenges from “cord cut­ters” who are drop­ping tra­di­tional TV sub­scrip­tions for cheaper on­line op­tions.

Nielsen said its data showed most ca­ble net­works ex­pe­ri­enced a month-to-month sub­scriber de­cline. The drop was driven pri­mar­ily by a 0.55 per­cent de­crease in the num­ber of house­holds pay­ing for TV pack­ages through ca­ble, satel­lite or tele­phone providers.

An­a­lyst Brian Wieser of Piv­otal Re­search Group, which pays for ac­cess to Nielsen data, con­firmed that Nielsen’s lat­est re­port in­di­cated a drop of roughly 621,000 ESPN sub­scribers. But he said it was not un­usual as ESPN has seen pre­vi­ous monthly drops of around 500,000 or 600,000 cus­tomers.

Wieser es­ti­mated that year-over-year de­clines stood at 3.1 per­cent, in line with the 2 per­cent to 4 per­cent drops seen since the start of 2014. “This has oc­curred as the net­work be­gan to trade off high sub­scriber fees for greater flex­i­bil­ity” for pay TV providers, Wieser said in a re­search note. “We con­tinue to be­lieve that ESPN is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing low-sin­gle-digit sub­scriber de­clines.” — Reuters

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