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Updated: Thu, 15 May 2014 15:26:14 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

TV subscriptions shrink slightly in 2013



Loren Finkelstein makes selections on his television set with the aid of "Replay TV," an electronic device located under his television set in New York, Friday, Jan. 14, 2000. The VCR -like device lets the viewer record dozens of hours of television on a computer chip. (© AP Photo/Ed Bailey)

Loren Finkelstein makes selections on his television set with the aid of "Replay TV," an electronic device located under his television set in New York, Friday, Jan. 14, 2000. The VCR -like device lets the viewer record dozens of hours of television on a computer chip. (AP Photo/Ed Bailey) Ed Bailey/Associated Press

The CRTC released fresh numbers Thursday that showed the number of Canadians who signed up for cable television service increased 1.5 per cent to 8.8 million last year, but that figure was offset by a decline in satellite television customers.

Across the industry as a whole, cable companies took in more revenue and scooped up more customers last year, the CRTC said. That contrasts with satellite television stations, which earned less money and saw their subscriber numbers decrease.

Cable companies took in $12.3 billion in revenue "from basic and discretionary television services, as well as internet access and telephone services," the broadcast regulator said. That was a six per cent increase from $11.6 billion the year before.

On the satellite business side, the picture wasn't as rosy. Revenues decreased almost one per cent from $2.5 billion in 2012 to $2.48 billion in 2013. And in terms of customers, satellite companies recorded a 4.8 per cent decrease to a total of just under 2.7 million subscribers last year.

Cord-cutting

Adding the two numbers together shows more than 126,000 new people signed up for cable service, but that was offset by 134,000 people who cancelled their satellite service. All in all, the decrease adds up to a net loss of 7,602 people.

That's the first time that number has ever decreased, and a possible hint that the so-called practice of "cord-cutting" — which holds that consumers are starting to turn away from conventional broadcasters in favour of online streaming services such as Netflix — may be starting to happen, albeit slowly. (It's also possible that 2013's figures are a statistical anomaly that won't continue into 2014 and beyond.)

Netflix's most recent quarterly earnings showed the company now has 48.3 million customers around the world — an increase of 4 million since the previous quarter — of which 12.6 million are outside the U.S. The company no longer breaks out its Canadian subscriber numbers, but it's known the company signed up one million customers in Canada within a year of launching in September 2010.

The Canadian TV industry employed 29,715 people in 2013 (an 11.5 per cent increase from 2012's level) and paid out 11 per cent more in salaries, rising from $2.2 to $2.5 billion. But the major broadcast companies spent $477.7 million developing Canadian content last year, a 5.6 per cent decrease compared with 2012.

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