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Report: Pay-TV to Lose Most Subscribers Ever in 2020

(Image credit: Comcast)

NEW YORK—Even though TV watching has been up in 2020, when it comes to pay-TV subscriptions the numbers are historic in the wrong kind of way. According to a report from eMarketer, cable, satellite and telecom TV providers are on pace to lose the most subscribers ever in a single year in 2020.

By the end of the year, eMarketer is projecting that 31.2 million U.S. households will have cut the cable cord in aggregate. In addition, 6.6 million households are expected to cancel their pay-TV subscriptions. Projecting down the road, eMarketer estimates that a third of U.S. households will have cut the pay-TV cord by 2024.

This brings the total number of U.S. households with cable, satellite or telecom TV packages down to 77.6 million, down 7.5% year-over-year, the biggest drop ever, per eMarketer.

(Image credit: eMarketer)

“Consumers are choosing to cut the cord because of high prices, especially compared with streaming alternatives,” said Eric Haggstrom, eMarketer forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence. “The loss of live sports in H1 2020 contributed to further declines. While sports have returned, people will not return to their old cable or satellite plans.”

In relation to the loss of subscribers is a drop in traditional TV ad spending. eMarketer projects that the total ad spend for traditional TV in 2020 will be $60 billion, representing a 15% drop year-over-year and the lowest total since 2011. There is expected to be some rebound in 2021, but eMarketer estimates that TV ad spending will remain below pre-pandemic spending until at least 2024.

Haggstrom forecasts that ad spending will instead shift to digital video.

For more information, visit eMarketer’s full report.