pay tv researchGlobal Pay-TV subscriber numbers will grow to reach 858.1 million in 2012, 5% higher than in 2011, despite a decline in North America, according to the latest published research from ABI. Growth Asia-Pacific pay-TV subscriber numbers will fuel the annual gain, with the addition of more than 27 million subscribers in 2012.

US cable TV service providers are facing a continuous decline in pay-TV subscribers, ABI notes. They lost nearly 0.8 million in the first half of 2012, though their combined broadband subscriber base has continued to grow. ABI forecasts that the overall North American pay-TV subscriber base will decline 0.2% in 2012 from 2011.

Within that revenue segment, cable operators added some 0.6 million subscribers over the first two quarters of the year, though IPTV’s US penetration is less than that of cable or satellite, according to the latest update to ABI’s Pay-TV Research Service.

“As broadband adoption grows, it is likely that pay-TV subscribers are switching to Internet TV services. Internet TV services are cheaper than traditional pay-TV services or even free of charge,” elaborated Sam Rosen, ABI Research director of TV & Video. “Services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. are cheaper alternatives for pay-TV subscribers especially in these uncertain economic times.”

Digital TV subscriber growth will be highest in the Asia-Pacific this year, as service providers in the region’s most populous countries, such as India, continue to make the transition to all-digital networks.

Progress could be better, however, ABI analysts noted. They’re skeptical that an extended Indian government deadline beyond Oct. 31 to digitize cable service for 12 million homes in the country’s four major metropolitan areas will be met.

Just 68% of these homes have been digitized thus far. “Overall the Asia-Pacific digital cable TV subscriber base is expected to reach 213 million by the end of 2012, a 27% increase from 2011,” pointed out ABI research analyst Khin Sandi Lynn.