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HBO and Showtime deny that subscribers are leaving for Netflix, NPD pulls original report

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A new NPD report published Monday shows that premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime are quickly losing viewers while Netflix continues to rack up subscribers at an impressive clip. But according to those premium cable networks, NPD's data is flat out wrong. It took less than 24 hours for HBO and Showtime to come out swinging against the idea that Netflix is stealing their customers. "While it is true that video services like Netflix have gained, so too have premium cable channels," Showtime said in a statement. The company pointed to recent SNL Kagan numbers — taken from the same period covered by NPD — that showed penetration growth for several premium networks. Showtime penetration grew from 21.1 percent to 22.8 percent; HBO from 28.2 percent to 29.2 percent; Cinemax from 11.2 percent to 13.6 percent, and Starz rose from 19.9 percent to 22 percent.

HBO also joined in, slamming NPD's research as "simply incorrect" in a statement. "Both HBO and Cinemax services have shown significant domestic subscriber growth the past two years," a spokesman told The Los Angeles Times. HBO added 1.9 million new subscribers in 2012, and the company expects to see a similar final count for 2013. We've reached out to NPD for comment on the situation.

Update: NPD has pulled down its original report in response to criticism from HBO, Showtime, and other networks. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the research firm plans to take another look at its survey — which incorporated data from 7,500 households — though NPD still isn't offering official comment on the matter.

Update 2: NPD admits it was wrong. The company says that while it believes the overall number of cable subscribers has declined, individual channels like HBO and Showtime could indeed be seeing more subscriptions if individual people are subscribing to more channels than they were before. Statement below:

A recent press announcement from The NPD Group ... should not have called out declines in subscribers for specific premium TV channels, HBO and Showtime. The data used for the press release pertains to aggregate results for all premium TV channels and does indicate that the overall number of subscribers has declined, based on a representative sample of the U.S. population. However, upon further examination of the results, there is data supporting the conclusion that individual subscribers are either subscribing to more channels, or adding channels over time. In that case, faithful premium channel subscribers are becoming more so - which would be consistent with the subscription increases being reported by individual channels.