Major U.S. pay TV providers lost about 2,875,000 subscribers in 2018

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 
Leichtman Research logo

Major Pay-TV Providers Lost About 2,875,000 Subscribers in 2018

  • Satellite TV Services had 2,360,000 net Losses in 2018

DURHAM, NH — Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. – representing about 95% of the market – lost about 2,875,000 net video subscribers in 2018, compared to a pro forma loss of about 1,510,000 subscribers in 2017.

The top pay-TV providers account for 89.1 million subscribers – with the top six cable companies having 47 million video subscribers, satellite TV services 29.1 million subscribers, the top telephone companies 9 million subscribers, and the top Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay-TV services 4 million subscribers.

Key findings include:

  • Satellite TV services lost about 2,360,000 subscribers in 2018 – compared to a loss of about 1,550,000 subscribers in 2017
    • DIRECTV lost 1,236,000 subscribers in 2018 – compared to a loss of 554,000 subscribers in 2017
    • In 2018, DBS services cumulatively lost 7.5% of video subscribers – compared to a loss of 4.7% in 2017
  • The top six cable companies lost about 910,000 video subscribers in 2018 – compared to a loss of about 680,000 subscribers in 2017
    • In 2018, the top cable providers cumulatively lost 1.9% of video subscribers – compared to a loss of 1.4% in 2017
  • The top telephone companies lost about 245,000 video subscribers in 2018 – compared to a loss of about 885,000 in 2017
    • AT&T U-verse added 47,000 subscribers in 2018 – compared to a loss of 624,000 subscribers in 2017
    • In 2018, the top Telcos cumulatively lost 2.6% of video subscribers – compared to a loss of 8.7% in 2017
  • The top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) services, Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW, added about 640,000 subscribers in 2018 – compared to about 1,600,000 net adds in 2017
    • Subscribers to these vMVPD services increased by 19% in 2018 – compared to an increase of 90% in 2017
  • Traditional pay-TV services (not including vMVPD) lost about 3,515,000 subscribers in 2018 – compared to a loss of about 3,110,000 in 2017

“The pay-TV market saw net losses increase in 2018. Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 3.1% of subscribers in 2018 compared to a loss of 1.6% in 2017,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “Since the industry’s peak in 1Q 2012, pay-TV subscribers for the top providers have declined by about 6,000,000. This reflects a decline of about 10,000,000 subscribers for traditional services, offset by the addition of about 4,000,000 subscribers for the publicly reporting vMVPD services.”

                     Subscribers at     Net Adds
Pay-TV Providers     End of 4Q 2018      in 2018
----------------     --------------  -----------
Cable Companies
 Comcast                 21,986,000    (371,000)
 Charter                 16,606,000    (244,000)
 Cox*                     4,015,000    (115,000)
 Altice                   3,307,500     (98,000)
 Mediacom                   776,000     (45,000)
 Cable ONE                  326,423     (37,465)
Total Top Cable          47,016,923    (910,465)

Satellite Services (DBS)
 DIRECTV                 19,222,000  (1,236,000)
 DISH TV                  9,905,000  (1,125,000)
Total DBS                29,197,000  (2,361,000)

Phone Companies
 Verizon FiOS             4,451,000    (168,000)
 AT&T U-verse             3,704,000       47,000
 Frontier                   838,000    (123,000)
Total Top Phone           8,993,000    (244,000)

Internet-Delivered (vMVPD)
 Sling TV                 2,417,000      205,000
 DIRECTV NOW              1,591,000      436,000
Total Top vMVPD^          4,008,000      641,000
                     --------------  -----------
Total Top Providers      89,144,923  (2,874,465)

* LRG estimate
^ vMVPD does not include Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, or PlayStation Vue, which do not publicly report subscribers
Company subscriber counts may not solely represent residential households
Top pay-TV providers represent approximately 95% of all subscribers
Top cable does not include overbuilder WOW (the sixth largest cable provider)

Net additions reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions, and reporting adjustments – therefore, comparing totals in this release to prior releases may not produce accurate findings

Links: Leichtman Research