More Than 3.5M Cut Cord in 2018, Per Leichtman

DURHAM, N.H.—Traditional pay-TV services took another hit in 2018, according to a new report by the Leichtman Research Group. Those traditional avenues for TV—satellite, cable and telephone companies—lost about 3,515,000 subscribers in 2018, compared to 3,110,000 in 2017.

Satellite TV services took the biggest individual hit, with a reported 2,360,000 subscribers leaving last year. That was up from 1,550,000 in 2017. DirecTV lost more than twice as many subscribers in 2018 (1,236,000) than in 2017 (554,000). DBS services cumulatively lost 7.5 percent video subscribers.

The top six cable companies saw less of a difference, but still had a larger exodus of subscribers than in 2017. This year 910,000 video subscribers left the six companies, about 1.9 percent of all its video subscribers; the number was 680,000 last year.

Telephone companies with pay-TV services—AT&T U-verse and the like—actually had less subscribers exit deals year-to-year, with 245,000 cutting the cord this year versus 885,000 the previous year. In total, after losing 8.7 percent of its subscribers in 2017, Telcos saw a decrease of 2.6 percent in 2018.

The top companies covering all three of these traditional services lost 2,875,000 net video subscribers in 2018.

Despite another year of overall growth, 2018 was also a slower year for internet-delivered services, including the top reporting services Sling TV and DirecTV Now. Those two services added 640,000 subscribers in 2018, but those numbers totaled 1,600,000 in 2017.

“The pay-TV market saw net losses increase in 2018,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. “Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 3.1 percent of subscribers in 2018 compared to a loss of 1.6 percent in 2017. Since the industry’s peak in 1Q 2012, pay-TV subscribers for the top providers have declined 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.”