Cord-cutting, consolidation and direct-to-consumer launches top the list of the biggest stories in pay-TV in 2015 - Year in Review

It was supposed to be the year that Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) finally closed on its big acquisition of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC). The media world was expected to launch its own wave of consolidation to offset the massive scale created by this mega-merger, with media companies like 21st Century Fox finally swallowing up the likes of Time Warner Inc.

Gas was supposed to hit $5 a gallon. USC was supposed to win the Pac-12 title. Donald Trump was supposed to be an afterthought.

Yeah, 2015 didn't go the way a lot of people expected, particularly when it comes to the pay-TV business.

When we left off 12 months ago, Liberty Media impresario John Malone was only hinting about having Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) swoop in and buy TWC in the event that Comcast couldn't make what still seemed like a probable regulatory closure of that deal happen. By May, the prophesy had unfolded, with Comcast backing away from the $45 billion deal under intense regulatory scrutiny, and Charter buying not only TWC, but Bright House Networks, as well.

This was followed by the introduction of a brand new star on the U.S. telecom scene, Europe's Patrick Drahi, whose French conglomerate Altice NV snapped up not only Suddenlink Communications, but Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) as well.

But consolidation wasn't the only big story, with Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) launch of Sling TV leading virtually every other operator to also experiment with IP-based video delivery.

And while operators were testing out managed IP video services delivered over their own networks, programmers were actually going over-the-top with direct-to-consumer offerings including HBO Now, CBS All Access, NBC's SeeSo, Nickelodeon's Noggin and Showtime Anytime, just to name a few a la carte streaming services.

This was all happening as operators and linear networks experienced record numbers of subscriber attrition, giving fears of cord-cutting greater legitimacy than ever.

Indeed, 2015 was an unpredictable year of accelerated change for the pay-TV industry, a volatility that is likely to characterize the calendar years to come. There were so many stories to choose from: Comcast's execution of its MVNO deal with Verizon, marking its probable entry into the wireless business; the wrangling between the pay-TV industry, broadcasters and the FCC over retrans; the FCC's attempt to create a successor technology to CableCard.

For more about the five stories we chose to focus on, please see the list below. Also, don't forget to check out the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWireless, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceOnlineVideo, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceTelecom, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWireless:Europe and the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWirelessTech. --Daniel

P.S. FierceCable will take a publishing break for the holidays. We will be updating the website with any breaking news, and our newsletter will be back in your inbox on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!

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