U.S. pay TV providers lost over 5 million subscribers in 2020

Thursday, March 4th, 2021 
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Major Pay-TV Providers Lost About 5,120,000 Subscribers in 2020

  • Net Pay-TV Losses Were About 325,000 More Than in 2019

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 5,120,000 net video subscribers in 2020, compared to a pro forma net loss of about 4,795,000 in 2019.

The top pay-TV providers now account for about 81.3 million subscribers – with the top seven cable companies having 43.9 million video subscribers, satellite TV services having about 21.8 million subscribers, the top telephone companies having 7.9 million subscribers, and the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay-TV services having 7.7 million subscribers.

Key findings for the year include:

  • Satellite TV services lost about 3,440,000 subscribers in 2020 – compared to a loss of about 3.700,000 subscribers in 2019
  • The top seven cable companies lost about 1,915,000 video subscribers in 2020 – compared to a loss of about 1,560,000 subscribers in 2019
  • The top telephone companies lost about 405,000 video subscribers in 2020 – compared to a loss of about 630,000 subscribers in 2019
  • The top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) services (Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV NOW, and fuboTV) added about 640,000 subscribers in 2020 – compared to about 1,095,000 net adds in 2019
  • Traditional pay-TV services (not including vMVPDs) lost about 5,765,000 subscribers in 2020 – compared to a net loss of about 5,890,000 in 2019
  • AT&T had a net loss of about 3,260,000 subscribers across its four pay-TV services (DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, AT&T TV, and AT&T TV NOW) in 2020 – compared to a net loss of about 4,095,000 subscribers in 2019
    • AT&T “Premium TV” services (not including the vMVPD service AT&T TV NOW) lost 15.3% of subscribers in 2020 – compared to a 4.6% loss among all other traditional pay-TV services

“Net pay-TV losses of over 5 million subscribers in 2020 were slightly higher than in 2019, and more than in any previous year,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 5.9% of subscribers in 2020, compared to 5.2% in 2019.”

                     Subscribers at     Net Adds
Pay-TV Providers     End of 4Q 2020      in 2020
----------------     --------------  -----------
Cable Companies
 Comcast                 19,846,000  (1,408,000)
 Charter                 16,200,000       56,000
 Cox*                     3,650,000    (215,000)
 Altice**                 2,961,000    (236,800)
 Mediacom                   643,000     (67,000)
 Atlantic Broadband**       318,387        1,287
 Cable One**                261,000     (46,000)
                     --------------  -----------
Total Top Cable          43,879,387  (1,915,513)

Satellite Services (DBS)
 DIRECTV^                13,000,000  (3,033,000)
 DISH TV^^                8,816,000    (408,000)
                     --------------  -----------
Total DBS                21,816,000  (3,441,000)

Phone Companies
 Verizon FiOS             3,927,000    (302,000)
 AT&T U-verse/AT&T TV^    3,505,000       42,000
 Frontier                   485,000    (146,000)
                     --------------  -----------
Total Top Phone           7,917,000    (406,000)

Internet-Delivered (vMVPD)
 Hulu + Live TV           4,000,000      800,000
 Sling TV                 2,474,000    (118,000)
 AT&T TV NOW                656,000    (270,000)
 fuboTV                     547,880      231,880
                     --------------  -----------
Total Top vMVPD^^^        7,677,880      643,880

Total Top Providers      81,290,267  (5,118,633)

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.
* LRG estimate
** Includes recent small acquisitions/sales and LRG estimates
^ AT&T combines non-vMVPDs as “Premium TV” – separate results are LRG estimates with AT&T TV included with U-verse
^^ DISH TV removed 250,000 subs representing commercial accounts impacted by COVID-19 in 1Q 2020. In 2Q-3Q 2020, 80,000 resumed normal service. DISH includes these subs in the total, but excludes them from net add/loss calculations.
^^^ vMVPD does not include YouTube TV (with 3 million subs in 3Q 2020) or Philo, as neither regularly report results
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 308,200 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