Pay-TV Operators Lose 1.9 Million Video Subs in Q1

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DURHAM, N.H.—The largest pay-TV operators in the U.S. continued to lose video subscribers in the first quarter of this year, with MVPDs representing about 95% of the market reporting net sub losses around 1,895,000 video subscribers in Q1 2021, according to the Leichtman Research Group Inc.

The losses were similar to declines seen in early 2020, when pay-TV operators  lost 1,955,000 subs in Q1 2020. 

With the losses, the largest U.S. pay-TV video subscribers now have about 78.7 million subs. This includes the top seven cable companies with 43.1 million video subscribers, other traditional pay-TV services like Dish, Verizon and AT&T with 28.9 million subscribers, and the top publicly reporting internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay-TV services like Hulu and Sling with 6.7 million subscribers. 

“Pay-TV net losses of about 1.9 million in Q1 2021 were similar to the net losses in Q1 2020,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group (LRG).  “Over the past year, top pay-TV providers had a net loss of about 4,790,000 subscribers, compared to a loss of about 5,125,000 over the prior year.”

Among the different sectors, cable video customer declines accelerated slightly to a net loss of about 775,000 video subscribers in Q1 2021, up from about 595,000 subscribers in Q1 2020. The Q1 2021 losses among the top cable operators were more than any previous quarter, LRG reported. 

Virtual MVPDs also continued to struggle, with a net loss of 255,000 subs in Q1 2021, up slightly from 210,000 a year ago. 

AT&T Premium TV, which includes DirecTV, U-verse and AT&T TV, once again saw the largest losses of any operator, with a drop of 620,000 video subs in the quarter, followed by Comcast, with 491,000 fewer subs in Q1 2020. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.