As the economy slowly gets back to its feet, “pay TV” – which includes cable, satellite, and telecom companies – lags behind.

A newly released report by research firm SNL Kagan revealed that pay-TV providers added a measly 51,000 customers in the fourth quarter, while the housing market added half a million new units in the same period.

“The modest fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 subscriber growth suggests the segment is not rebounding with the broader economy, and customer formation is lagging the rebounding housing market,” the firm reported.

Pay-TV actually lost 5,000 users in the other three quarters, which means it only added 46,000 customers in the last year for a combined total of 100.4 million subscribers.

Jimmy Schaeffler, head of research firm the Carmel Group, called the estimate “troubling,” as compared to the population growth. “[It] speaks to the need for change in traditional TV, and also the effectiveness of new online video alternatives.”

These findings imply that as people move into new homes, they’re doing so without cable service. The percentage of “occupied homes” with a pay-TV service dropped from a peak of 87.3 percent in 2010 to 84.7 percent last year. Nielsen figures show that the number of TV households fell for the second consecutive year.

The Kagan report delivered a big blow for cable operators as well, which collectively lost 1.66 million video customers last year, in addition to the 1.8 million lost in 2011.

Kagan attributed the cable industry’s woes to “high unemployment” and widespread disruption related to Superstorm Sandy.

Satellite TV companies added 288,000 customers, less than the almost half million added in the prior year, Kagan reported. Telecom companies which provide programming packages, including Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse gained 1.4 million new customers, although that’s less than the 1.6 million added in 2011.

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