AT&T subscriber losses highlight cord-cutting threat

AT&T filing: Natural disasters hitting earnings; DirecTV Now at 300K adds

Meanwhile, it notes it expects to report DirecTV Now added a net 300,000 subs, while overall total US video subscribers will be down about 90,000 (which "negatively impacts our Entertainment Group revenues and margins, resulting in an adjusted consolidated operating income margin that will be essentially flat versus the year-ago third quarter"). Shares were down 3.8 percent to $36.74 midday on Thursday.

That drop is roughly equivalent to every Arlington citizen cutting cable TV.

Even though the pre-released linear video subscriber losses were higher than expected and storm impact was a short-term negative, AT&T is clearly "not the only one being impacted by these trends in Q3", Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche wrote in an investor note.

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The announcement weighed on other stocks in the sector, with shares of Dish Network Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp and Altice USA Inc. trading lower. The prepaid subscriber base will be adjusted by an increase of 543,000 connections with a corresponding decline in the connected device subscriber base to reflect subscriber activity prior to the third quarter.

As MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett observed, the net loss means DirecTV is losing about 390,000 traditional subscribers - customers that had been paying at a higher rate than the low-priced DirecTV Now service. The decline of traditional video subscribers negatively hit Entertainment Group revenues and margins, which means the adjusted operating profit margin will be essentially flat year-on-year.

AT&T's prediction, issued after the market closed Wednesday, echoed Comcast's forecast in early September of third-quarter losses of 100,000 to 150,000 video customers due. Deutsche Bank's Niknam noted accelerating competition from Dish's Sling service, Sony Corp.'s PlayStation Vue and others.

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