Top Pay-TV Providers Lost Nearly 5M Subscribers in 2019

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DURHAM, N.H.—Pay-TV providers may like to forget 2019 as soon as possible, as a report from Leichtman Research Group found that among the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S.—which make up about 95% of the market—there was a loss of about 4,915,000 net video subscribers. That is up from the 1,585,000 subscribers lost in 2018.

Currently, the top pay-TV providers account for 86.2 million subscribers. The top seven cable companies account for 45.8 million of that number; satellite 25.4 million; telephone companies 8.3 million; and the top three publicly reporting vMVPD pay-TV services have 6.7 million subscribers.

The group of top seven cable companies is made up of Comcast, Charter, Cox, Altice, Mediacom, Cable One and Atlantic Broadband. Combined, they lost about 1.56 million video subscribers last year, representing 3.3% of video subscribers; it was 920,000 in 2018 (1.9%). Comcast saw the most losses, 732,000, but remains the top cable company by more than 5 million subscribers (21.25 million at end of 2019).

DirecTV and Dish were the satellite companies tabulated by LRG, which combined lost around 3.7 million subscribers, up from 2.36 million in 2018. DirecTV saw the majority of those losses, with a reported 3.19 million subscribers leaving the satellite company.

Telephone companies, which include Verizon Fios, AT&T U-Verse and Frontier, lost about 665,000 video subscribers, again up from 2018 (245,000).

The only group that saw an overall growth was vMVPDs, represented in LRG’s report by Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and AT&T TV Now. Combined, the three groups added just over a million subscribers in 2019. However, that number was down from 1.94 million net adds in 2018, which represented a 50% increase at that time; 2019’s addition represented an 18% increase. AT&T TV Now was the only vMVPD to lose subscribers and is the only one that came in under a million (926,000) at the end of 2019.

Overall, 2019 saw AT&T suffer a net loss of about 4.12 million subscribers across its pay-TV services (DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse and AT&T TV Now), representing 84% of pay-TV net losses in the year. The company just launched its new AT&T TV service, however.

“The significant increase in pay-TV net losses in 2019 was both a function of consumers having more video options, and the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability in acquiring and retaining subscribers,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG.

The full Leichtman Research Group report can be found online.