AT&T says hurricanes, earthquakes hurt third-quarter results

As more customers cut their cable and turn to streaming services, Dallas-based AT&T says it expects to lose about 390,000 traditional pay-TV subscribers this quarter, according to financial documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A loss that will be offset by about 300,000 gains from DirecTV Now, the company's OTT-delivered pay TV service.

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"). "But we doubt anyone expected them to be this bad", said MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett.

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On Thursday, even the larger, more diversified media-entertainment companies saw their shares fall: Comcast fell 4 percent; Viacom dropped 3 percent; Walt Disney was off 2 percent; and Sony and CBS were each off 1 percent.

First, that cord cutting is now officially a thing-a dynamic that seemed to set in when the industry lost 976,000 customers in the second quarter. "DirecTV and Comcast are responding to the same secular pressures", Moffett wrote.

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Moffet also suggested that "it is becoming increasingly clear that the wheels are falling off of satellite TV", anticipating a tough Q3 from Dish Network's satellite TV business as well, despite the continued growth of the company's own OTT platform SlingTV. Moffett expects Dish Network to continue to post bad subscriber numbers in the third quarter.

Walter Piecyk, an analyst with BTIG, said in a note to clients on Thursday that he was modeling a decline of 350,000 traditional TV subs for AT&T in the quarter, so the company will exceed that by 40,000. But DirecTV Now's low margins have failed to spark the imaginations of analysts like Moffett.

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