NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's "put up or shut up" time for analysts that have been predicting a spike in cord-cutting and the end of traditional pay-TV subscriptions, MoffettNathanson said in a research note today.
The research note predicts a do-or-die turning point for long-suffering pay-TV empires this earnings season. After the number of pay TV subscriptions in the U.S. contracted for the first time in history earlier this year, MoffettNathanson anticipates that upcoming earnings reports will show even faster declines as U.S. cable and satellite providers fend off the first full quarter of over-the-top video services like Dish Network's
(DISH) - Get DISH Network Corporation Class A Report Sling TV, TimeWarner's (TWX) HBO Now andSony's (SNE) - Get SONY GROUP CORPORATION SPONSORED ADR Report PlayStation Vue.
While the note observed that cable stocks have gone "back in vogue again" on the theory that infrastructure investments will give cable players an advantage in broadband, MoffettNathanson finds reasons to be more cautious.
Taking into account new households, the annualized number of households pulling their pay-TV plugs or never bothering to subscribe has more than tripled over the past 6 months, MoffettNathanson estimated.
Then there's the question of broadband pricing. While the cable companies could compensate for fewer video subscribers with more Internet subscribers, the Federal Communications Commission is poised to put a lid on broadband prices.
"We have less sympathy for the argument that being infrastructure necessarily means a much higher multiple," the note continued. "We've heard numbers as high as 12x Ebitda. That's the stuff that bubbles are blown from."
That hasn't stopped Wall Street from taking a more positive view of the pay-TV space.
Time Warner Cable (TWC) got a boost after its busted deal withComcast (CMCSA) - Get Comcast Corporation Class A Report gave way to a more likely acquisition byCharter Communications (CHTR) - Get Charter Communications, Inc. Class A Report. Time Warner Cable shares have risen 17.5% in the last three months.
Comcast, meanwhile, has emerged from its failed Time Warner conquest with a box-office hit from its Universal Studios' film Minions. But the jury is out on how longer-term investments, including renewed focus on customer service and its own brand of streaming video service, will fare. Comcast shares have gained 8.9% in the past three months.