Major U.S. pay TV providers lost nearly 5 million subscribers in 2019

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 
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Major Pay-TV Providers Lost About 4,915,000 Subscribers in 2019

  • Top Pay-TV Providers had 3.3 Million More Net Losses Than in any Previous Year

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 4,915,000 net video subscribers in 2019, compared to a pro forma loss of about 1,585,000 subscribers in 2018.

The top pay-TV providers account for 86.2 million subscribers – with the top seven cable companies having 45.8 million video subscribers, satellite TV services 25.4 million subscribers, the top telephone companies 8.3 million subscribers, and the top three publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay-TV services 6.7 million subscribers.

Key findings include:

  • Satellite TV services lost about 3,700,000 subscribers in 2019 – compared to a net loss of about 2,360,000 subscribers in 2018
  • DIRECTV lost about 3,190,000 subscribers in 2019 – compared to a net loss of about 1,235,000 subscribers in 2018
  • In 2019, DBS services cumulatively lost 12.7% of video subscribers – compared to a loss of 7.5% in 2018
  • The top seven cable companies lost about 1,560,000 video subscribers in 2019 – compared to a net loss of about 920,000 subscribers in 2018
  • In 2019, the top cable providers cumulatively lost 3.3% of video subscribers – compared to a loss of 1.9% in 2018
  • The top telephone companies lost about 665,000 video subscribers in 2019 – compared to a net loss of about 245,000 in 2018
  • In 2019, the top Telcos cumulatively lost 7.4% of video subscribers – compared to a loss of 2.6% in 2018
  • The top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) services (Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, and AT&T TV NOW) added about 1,010,000 subscribers in 2019 – compared to about 1,940,000 net adds in 2018
  • Subscribers to these vMVPD services increased by 18% in 2019 – compared to an increase of about 50% in 2018
  • AT&T had a net loss of about 4,120,000 subscribers across its three pay-TV services (DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, and AT&T TV NOW) in 2019 – compared to a net loss of about 750,000 subscribers in 2018
  • AT&T accounted for 84% of pay-TV net losses in 2019 – compared to 48% of net losses in 2018

“Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 5.4% of subscribers in 2019 compared to a loss of 1.7% in 2018,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “The significant increase in pay-TV net losses in 2019 was both a function of consumers having more video options, and the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability in acquiring and retaining subscribers.”

                     Subscribers at     Net Adds
Pay-TV Providers     End of 4Q 2019      in 2019
----------------     --------------  -----------
Cable Companies
 Comcast                 21,254,000    (732,000)
 Charter                 16,144,000    (462,000)
 Cox*                     3,865,000    (150,000)
 Altice                   3,179,200    (106,900)
 Mediacom                   710,000     (66,000)
 Cable One**                314,000     (39,000)
 Atlantic Broadband         308,638      (4,061)
Total Top Cable          45,774,838  (1,559,961)

Satellite Services (DBS)
 DIRECTV^                16,033,000  (3,189,000)
 DISH TV                  9,394,000    (511,000)
Total DBS                25,427,000  (3,700,000)

Phone Companies
 Verizon FiOS             4,229,000    (222,000)
 AT&T U-verse^            3,440,000    (264,000)
 Frontier*                  660,000    (178,000)
Total Top Phone           8,329,000    (664,000)

Internet-Delivered (vMVPD)
 Hulu + Live TV           3,200,000    1,500,000
 Sling TV                 2,592,000      175,000
 AT&T TV NOW                926,000    (665,000)
Total Top vMVPD^^         6,718,000    1,010,000

Total Top Providers      86,248,838  (4,913,961)

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.
* LRG estimate
** Cable One total includes the acquisition of Fidelity Communications, and an LRG estimate of pro forma results
^ AT&T combines totals for DIRECTV and U-verse into “Premium TV” – separate results are LRG estimates
^^ vMVPD now includes Hulu + Live TV, but does not include YouTube TV or others that do not publicly report subscribers

Company subscriber counts may not solely represent residential households
Top pay-TV providers represent approximately 95% of all subscribers

Net additions reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions, reporting adjustments, and the addition of new providers to the list – therefore, comparing totals in this release to prior releases will not produce accurate findings

Links: Leichtman Research Group