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Showtime, HBO, Starz blast NPD study that says they lost subscribers

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Pay-TV channels HBO, Showtime and Starz are blasting a much-ballyhooed study from a research firm that said all were losing subscribers to digital services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

The study from NPD Group released Monday said pay-TV channels had lost 6% of their subscribers in the last two years while online services had gained 4%. It received a lot of media attention including a story in the Los Angeles Times.

"It’s clear that some consumers are trimming their premium-TV subscriptions,” Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis for NPD Group, said of the study.

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But it's not so clear to the nation's three major pay channels, all of whom say they have grown their subscriber bases.

"Showtime and every other premium network have increased both subscribers and penetrations over the last two years," a Showtime spokesperson said, adding that the NPD study "does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts."

Showtime, the spokesperson said, has added 1 million subscribers a year in six of the last seven years. HBO and Starz made similar statements.

“The research is simply incorrect. Both HBO and Cinemax services have shown significant domestic subscriber growth the past two years," an HBO spokesman said. In 2012, HBO said it added 1.9 million subscribers and it expects a similar figure for 2013.

A Starz spokesman noted that it has added 1.2 million subscribers in the last 12 months.

NPD had said its findings are based on its analysis of 450,000 consumer transactions, and surveys of 7,500 people.

A spokesman for NPD did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the study.

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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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