U.S. pay TV suffers Q1 subscriber losses for the first time

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
Leichtman Research logo

Major Pay-TV Providers Lost About 410,000 Subscribers In 1Q 2017

  • First Time the Industry ever had Net Losses in a First Quarter

DURHAM, NH — Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found that the largest pay-TV providers in the US — representing about 95% of the market — lost about 410,000 net video subscribers in 1Q 2017, compared to a gain of about 10,000 subscribers in 1Q 2016.

The top pay-TV providers account for 93.3 million subscribers — with the top six cable companies having over 48.6 million video subscribers, satellite TV services about 33.2 million subscribers, the top telephone companies 9.8 million subscribers, and the top Internet-delivered pay-TV services having about 1.7 million subscribers.

Key findings for the quarter include:

  • The top six cable companies lost about 115,000 video subscribers in 1Q 2017 — compared to a gain of about 50,000 subscribers in 1Q 2016
  • Satellite TV services lost about 320,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017 — compared to a gain of about 175,000 subscribers in 1Q 2016
  • DIRECTV had no net adds in 1Q 2017 — compared to a gain of 328,000 in 1Q 2016
  • The top telephone providers lost about 325,000 video subscribers in 1Q 2017 — compared to a loss of 350,000 subscribers in 1Q 2016
  • Internet-delivered services (Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW) added about 350,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017 — compared to about 130,000 net adds in 1Q 2016
  • Traditional pay-TV services (not including Internet-delivered services) lost about 760,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017 — compared to a loss of about 120,000 in 1Q 2016

“The pay-TV market lost about 410,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2017. This marked the first time that the industry has ever had net subscriber losses in the first quarter of a year,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “The decline in subscribers should not be interpreted as solely driven by a sudden increase in consumers disconnecting services. The net losses are also a function of a decrease in new connects, partially due to some providers less aggressively pursuing lower value customers than in the past.”

                                  Subscribers at     Net Adds
Pay-TV Providers                  End of 1Q 2017   in 1Q 2017
----------------                  --------------  -----------
Cable Companies
 Comcast                              22,549,000       41,000
 Charter                              17,147,000     (89,000)
 Altice*                               3,500,000     (35,000)
 Mediacom**                              832,000      (3,000)
 Cable ONE                               307,187     (13,059)
 Other major private company***        4,275,000     (15,000)
Total Top Cable                       48,610,187    (114,059)

Satellite Services (DBS)
 DIRECTV                              21,012,000            0
 DISH-DBS^                            12,173,000    (318,000)
Total DBS                             33,185,000    (318,000)

Phone Companies
 Verizon FiOS                          4,681,000     (13,000)
 AT&T U-verse                          4,048,000    (233,000)
 Frontier^^                            1,065,000     (80,000)
Total Top Phone                        9,794,000    (326,000)

 Sling TV^                             1,355,000      175,000
 DIRECTV NOW^^                           375,000      175,000
Total Internet-Delivered               1,730,000      350,000

Total Top Providers                   93,319,187    (408,059)

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.
* Altice adjusted Suddenlink totals from prior reported amounts to align with Optimum metrics
** Mediacom includes pro forma results from a small system acquisition in January 2017
*** Includes LRG estimate for Cox
^ DISH reports combined DBS and Sling TV subscribers, the individual counts for DISH and Sling TV are LRG estimates
^^ Frontier is revised from prior reporting (does not including DBS subscribers)
^^^ LRG estimate for DIRECTV NOW in 1Q 2017
Company subscriber counts may not solely represent residential households
Top pay-TV providers represent approximately 95% of all subscribers
Top cable companies do not include overbuilder WOW with 474,000 subscribers
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