According to new data from SNL Kagan, HBO suffered another small subscriber decline in the second quarter of 2010 after a similarly small decline in the first quarter. The Hollywood Reporter looks at the issues and suggests that "bruising negotiations" with DirecTV resulting in less promotion may be partly to blame. But then also suggests the whole thing may simply be normal subscriber volatility:
That said, quarterly numbers can be deceiving in the pay-TV business. Contrary to the perception that hit original programs attracted intensely faithful audiences, HBO and its ilk all cop to the volatility of their business, where roughly 5% of their respective subscriber bases could drop out at any given month.
The story notes that HBO has raked in the cash with DVD sales and international licensing for True Blood, but the most interesting data to me is that HBO has been relatively flat in subscribers since around 2006 while Starz and Showtime have both continued to grow (Showtime more dramatically, adding more than 6 million subscribers in the last 6 years).
The full story on THR is definitely worth the read if you're interested in this topic.