In the face of fierce backlash from HBO, Showtime and Starz, NPD Group has temporarily pulled a report from its website claiming that premium cable channels have declined in popularity.
A spokesman for the market research company said it is double-checking the numbers after the three channels claimed that the data is faulty and that their subscriber rolls have actually increased in recent years.
“The research is simply incorrect,” an HBO spokesman said in a statement to TheWrap. “Both HBO and Cinemax services have shown significant domestic subscriber growth the past two years.”
A Showtime spokeswoman said, “The NPD research is not accurate. Showtime has increased subscribers over the past two years, and in fact, has added 1 million viewers each year for six of the past 7 years.”
The furor kicked off on Monday after NPD’s study argued the number of U.S. households subscribing to premium cable channels dropped six percent over the last two years, while the number of households with subscription video-on-demand services such as Netflix grew by four percent. The company based its survey on roughly 7,500 customers and implied that Netflix’s growing popularity was coming at the expense of HBO and others.
However, Showtime, HBO and Starz claim SNL Kagan data reveals that growth, not diminution, has been the trend of late. From March 2012 through September 2013, Showtime’s subscriber penetration went from 21.1 percent to 22.8 percent, HBO’s jumped from 28.2 percent to 29.2 percent and Starz’s increased from 19.9 percent to 22 percent.
The companies’ claims were echoed by BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, who said in a note Tuesday that NPD’s claims were “100 percent false.”
“We believe premium growth has been quite healthy, with absolute premium subscribers now at an all-time high driven by improving quality of content,” Greenfield wrote.
He went on to say that Netflix and other video-on-demand subscribers tend to have a voracious appetite for content, “meaning you subscribe to HBO and Netflix, not HBO or Netflix.”
An NPD spokesman did not say when its review of the data would be completed.