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US pay TV numbers tipped to recover

The US pay TV market is set to return to growth in 2014 with subscriber numbers to climb slightly following a loss in 2013, according to new research by Strategy Analytics.

The North American Digital Television Forecast: 1Q 2014 report claims that though the US pay TV market “has faced challenges for several years,” it will experience 0.14% subscriber growth in 2014. This compares to a 0.58% loss in total subscribers in 2013.

Strategy Analytics predicts that IPTV will be the “bright spot” of the pay TV market. Last year IPTV subscriptions increased by 17.5%, with the expectation that this will continue at a compound annual growth rate of 8.3% through 2019 – driven by multiplay offers by the likes of AT&T and Verizon.

In the cable industry, Strategy Analytics said that consolidation among the US cable operators “should enable faster digital transitions and a wider deployment of technology platforms.” It also noted that Comcast reversed its long-standing trend of subscriber losses, following the rollout of its Xfinity X1 platform.

“The digital transition has been a double-edged sword for the cable industry: Average revenues have risen, but higher prices have squeezed out some customers. We expect to see these customers return to pay TV gradually, albeit with different packages or different services than those they left and IPTV services in particular stand to gain the most,” said Eric Smith, analyst in Strategy Analytics’ digital consumer practice.

In terms of overall pay TV market share, satellite is expected to account for 33% of subscribers in 2019 – down slightly from 34% last year. Over the same time period, cable will decline from 55% of share in 2013 to 49% in 2019, while telco IPTV will climb from 11% to 18%.