Media stock analyst Richard Greenfield of BTIG Research has some harsh words for people who believe NPD’s recent report on cable TV which showed HBO subscribers sinking from 38% to 32% of the TV watching audience: “That finding is 100% false,” he says in a blog post today.
“We mentally filed the results of their Premium TV survey of 7,500 Internet households as misleading/meaningless, as we emphatically believed the key finding (highlighted in the title) was incorrect,” Greenfield says.
As evidence, he cites these factors:
- EPIX: “While EPIX has never broken out subscriber info publicly, we believe there are more people capable of viewing EPIX than ever before.”
- HBO: Its annual report says the channel had “its biggest increase in domestic subscribers in a decade last year.”
- Showtime: ” … just look at their Q3 2013 earnings release where they say ‘…higher affiliate revenues, which reflect increases in rates and subscriptions at Showtime Networks and Smithsonian Networks.'”
But Greenfield is also trying to have his statistical cake and eat it. NPD’s data discusses percentage market share, not actual subscriber numbers. Greenfield is talking about total subscriber numbers. It is in fact possible for HBO et al. to increase their total subscriber base while losing percentage share of the market, if you assume that the total video watching population is also growing.
Greenfield gives a brief nod to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ recent admission that he is actually competing with HBO but makes the interesting case that the broadcast networks are more likely to lose to out to on-demand web video, not the premium channels: “we believe over-the-top video households are among the most passionate about video content — meaning you subscribe to HBO and Netflix, not HBO or Netflix.” (Emphasis added.)
We’ll see. Netflix recently surpassed HBO in total subscribers … only a naif would believe that HBO doesn’t regard Netflix as competition.
Here’s the NPD chart of HBO vs streaming video on demand (SVOD) again, for reference: