Leitchman: Pay-TV Bloodletting Continues

DURHAM, N.H.—More specifics are coming out about how pay-TV fared in the first quarter of 2019, and they aren’t positive. Leitchman Research Group released its own report that found the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S., which make up about 95% of the market, had a net loss of 1.325 million video subscribers in Q1 2019; last year’s numbers over the same period resulted in a pro forma net loss of 305,000 subscribers.

In total, the top pay-TV providers now have about 87.8 million subscribers. Broken down, that gives the top six cable companies 46.7 million subscribers; satellite TV services 28.3 million; top telephone companies 8.9 million; and the top vMVPD pay-TV services 3.9 million.

All services suffered a net loss of subscribers during the measured time period. Satellite TV services took the biggest hit, losing 810,000 subscribers in the first quarter; up from a loss of 375,000 in Q1 last year. The top six cable companies lost about 50,000 more subscribers this year (285,000 in Q1 2018, 335,000 in Q1 2019). Telephone providers’ losses more than doubled from 50,000 last year to 105,000 in the recent period. The measured vMVPD services, which include the likes of SlingTV and DirecTV Now, went from a net gain of 405,000 during the first quarter of 2018 to a loss of 75,000 subscribers.

No company took a bigger hit than AT&T according to Leitchman’s research. Across its three pay-TV services (DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV Now) there was a net loss of 625,000 subscribers; last year saw a net gain of 125,000. Overall, AT&T accounted for 47% of the net losses for all pay-TV providers.

Leitchman President and Principal Analyst Bruce Leitchman noted that Q1 2019 marked the third straight quarter of record pay-TV net losses. He also said that the downturn coincides with pay-TV providers’ decision to focus on long-term profitability when acquiring and retaining subscribers.