This is the first decline since tracking began in the early 1980s.
Television is dead. Long live television. For the first time in modern history, the number of Americans paying for television subscriptions has fallen, as a new generation of technology and the recession takes hold. Research from industry specialist SNL Kagan shows that the entire US paid television industry lost 216,000 customers in the three months to June, having gained 378,000 customers in the same period last year.
This is the first decline since the reseracher began tracking such usage in the early 1980s.
And although the decline is small, a 0.2pc drop on America’s 100m cable subscribers, it is testament to an increasing trend in the way people watch television, with cable, once the only way to tap into mainstream entertainment, far from the only option.
Six of the eight largest US cable operators experienced their worst quarterly losses on record during the period, with cable providers as a whole losing 711,000 subscribers.
This was offset somewhat by satellite providers such as Dish and DirecTV who gained around 81,000 new subscribers.
At the same time, America’s main internet protocol television (IPTV) providers – AT&T and Verizon – added 441,000 subscribers.
As a result, cable’s share of the overall television market is down from 63pc to 61pc, and falling, a trend that is likely to be seen on this side of the Atlantic.
The research came as a report by Altman Vilandrie & Co found that the number of people who watch broadcast television programmes on the internet doubled in the last year.
Some 10pc of people questioned said that they watched television online, compared with 5pc in 2009, with the proportion rising to 16pc in the 18-34 year old market.
SNL Kagan estimates that close to 3m US households will use internet television sites such as Hulu as their main video solution by the end of year, up from 1.5m at the end of 2009, with the figure rising to 4.3m by the end of 2011. American viewers watched 1.2bn free television porgrammes or films on Hulu in May, up from 250m in the same month a year ago.
But new internet television offerings are not the only reason behind the dip. The US’s digital conversion – the analogue feed was switched off in June 2009 – may also be partly to blame, with customers cancelling cable packages after special digital promotions ran out.
In addition, the economy is also likely to have played a part in the numbers. “We believe economic factors such as low housing formation and a high unemployment rate contributed to subscriber declines in the second quarter,” said Mariam Rondeli, analysts at SNL Kagan.