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Network Streaming Apps Fight for Slice

More than a year after HBO kicked off a race among big media companies to go direct to consumers online, many of the new services are hovering around the million-subscriber mark. That suggests these services are far from a solution for media companies grappling with cord-cutting.

At the high end, wrestling service WWE had 1.5 million subscribers at June 30, while HBO Now had 800,000 at the end of December, the last date for which HBO disclosed figures. Showtime and CBS All Access each had around one million subscribers as of June 30, CBS has said. At the lower end, Acorn TV had 280,000 at the end of April, while latest figures from RoosterTeeth put it at 135,000.

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That’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars that a channel can generate by being part of a cable package, available to 90 million households. And it highlights the problem. Media companies such as Time Warner and Discovery Communications now say their subscriber numbers are declining; Time Warner recently said it’s about 2% a year. That’s the equivalent of about 1.8 million households—more than the standalone streaming services are yet able to draw. In one sense it’s a growing market for the subscription video services to make inroads into, but also a warning that reaching these customers won’t be easy.

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