Cable TV Bleeds Subscribers, Internet TV Cleans Them Up

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Cable networks have been losing subscribers at a growing rate in recent months—and satellite providers haven't picked up the slack, according to an AP report. It's the strongest indication yet that online services such as Netflix and Hulu are snagging an ever larger share of couch potatoes.

Major cable TV companies suffered big losses this quarter. Time Warner, for instance, loss 155,000 subscribers, more than double what it lost year-over-year. Comcast, too, reported doubled losses of 275,000 subscribers for the quarter.

Meanwhile, web services have been thriving. Netflix recently reported a gigantic increase to 16.9 million subscribers, a 52% uptick. What's more, more than 66% of those subscribers are now streaming content via Netflix Instant—now available on the Xbox, Wii, and Playstation consoles as well as your computer. It's another strong sign users are viewing media less and less on the TV.

When I recently spoke with Bill Gorman, media analyst of TV by the Numbers, he still offered an old argument: "The danger to broadcast TV isn't the Internet—it's cable." That might have been the case with the big networks, but for cable, it's the opposite. The biggest danger to cable companies is the Internet.

The big push for Internet-connected televisions this holiday season would still introduce even more competition among cable nets. Using Google TV or Apple TV, consumers will more easily have access to a slew of free services, from Hulu to YouTube. And that's not to mention access to more free video on the web on sites such as, which could make paying for a cable subscription a thing of the past.

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