Traditional TV is continuing to have trouble competing with Netflix and Hulu.
Media stocks are tumbling as investors worry about the impact that so-called cord-cutting is having on their businesses.
Disney, the parent company of ESPN, long seen as a network that holds the cable bundle together, saw its shares fall by more than 9% on Wednesday and was down another 4.5% by midday Thursday.
Time Warner — which owns networks like CNN, HBO, TNT, and TBS — tumbled 9% on Wednesday and was down another 6% on Thursday.
Shares of Viacom — which owns Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon — was down more than 20% Thursday after the company reported disappointing revenue.
Shares of Discovery Communications, Twenty-First Century Fox, and CBS were also down.
As The New York Times reported, the concern some investors have is that competition from streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, which continue to grow, are eating into the time that people spend watching traditional TV.
TV ratings are down, advertising rates are down, and fewer people are subscribing to TV.
DISH, the satellite TV provider, said on Wednesday that it lost 81,000 TV subscribers in the second quarter of the year, double what it lost during the same period last year. That number, however, is likely much higher because that figure includes new subscribers to Sling TV, Dish’s new live-streaming TV service.
Craig Moffett, a senior analyst at the research firm MoffettNathanson, wrote in a research note that the satellite provider could have shed as many as 187,000 subscribers during the quarter.
"Yikes," Moffett wrote.
Charlie Ergen, the CEO of Dish, conceded during a call with investors that the TV business is "mature ... and I think it's now declining."
“The biggest problem in the linear business today is that viewership is going down, advertising rates are going down and everybody wants to go to the Street and say they're still making the same amount of money,” Charlie Ergen, the CEO of Dish, the satellite provider, told investors in a conference call on Wednesday, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.
Comcast, the largest cable company in the US, said last month it lost 69,000 video subscribers during the second quarter of this year. And investors saw that loss as good news: It was the smallest second-quarter loss Comcast has had in nine years.
For the first time ever, more people now subscribe to Comcast’s high-speed internet service than subscribe to the company’s cable packages.
Between standalone streaming services from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, Showtime, and CBS, among others, there are now more places than ever to get TV online, without paying for a huge, expensive cable package.
To be sure, a huge number of households — about 100 million in the US — still pay a cable, satellite, or phone company each month for TV. But as more and more options for streaming video over the internet become available — a new one seems to come out every few weeks — the question is how many people will continue to subscribe.
At the same time, the number of households in the US that pay for broadband internet but don't pay for TV has increased by more than 20% in two years, from 9.7 million in the first quarter of 2013 to 11.7 million the same time this year, according to SNL Kagan, a media-research firm.
TV networks, which make money both from pay fees paid by TV providers like DirecTV and Comcast, as well as from advertising, could also suffer losses as cable companies offer so-called skinny bundles. These slimmed-down packages of channels, which may not include the traditional staples from basic cable, like ESPN, are becoming increasingly common as TV providers get creative with packages to keep people from canceling their subscriptions.
Young people just aren’t watching TV the way they used to. As The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, ratings among people 18-49 — a highly coveted demographic for advertisers — for the top 30 cable networks were down 20% in June and July compared to the same period last year.
Netflix continues to add millions of subscribers in the US each quarter. Shares of the company's stock reached record highs on Wednesday.
Dish's Ergen was frank with investors this week.
“So the world has changed and we've been talking about it on our conference calls for a long time and I think other people are starting to see some of the things that we see,” he said, according to the transcript.