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Telefonica pay-TV clients decrease in Spain

Telefonica pay-TV clients decrease in Spain

MADRID: Telefonica’s pay-TV subscriber numbers in Spain took a small if increased hit in this year’s third quarter, according to financial results announced Thursday in Madrid.

But Europe’s biggest telecom in revenue terms remained rather  “optimistic” about its TV business going forward, Telefonica Chairman-CEO Jose-Maria Alvarez Pallete and Chief Financial Officer Angel Vila said in conference call with analysts.

Telefonica’s TV clients, which stood at 3.76 million on June 30, declined by 44,000 subscribers from July to September. The slide compares to a drop of 12,000 in the same quarter last year.

Vila put the loss down to three factors. Subscription numbers were hit by price increases in the basic packages of Movistar Fusion Plus as well as hiked rates for one-play TV offer in September, which increased from €22 to €25. Telefonica also lost customers as it migrated them from satellite platform to broadband delivery, he added.

But revenues from Telefonica’s Fusion triple-play offer of TV, internet and telephony rose 23% year-on-year, as subscribers paid significantly more for Fusion: €81.80 ($89.10) a month, up from €73.80 ($80.40) at the same time last year, said Alvarez Pallete said.

While operating by far the biggest pay-TV business in Spain, Telefonica, like rivals including Netflix, is still operating on half-gas. Sports, especially soccer, certainly drive subscription takeup. Telefonica is also betting on original TV series to reduce churn. But the impact of that on Telefonica’s bottom line will only be seen when its anticipated original TV series begin to air from September 2017. Netflix to date has ordered just one series in Spain.

Pessimists had feared content costs would dent Telefonica’s performance in Spain. That, for the moment, has not happened. Thanks to an early-retirement program for employees, third-quarter costs in Spain remained stable, down just o.3% compared to 2015 –  a creditable performance given Telefonica has had to assume the increased costs of new La Liga and Champions League soccer seasons, which kicked in from mid-August.