Traditional Pay TV Penetration Falls to 53%

Dish Network
(Image credit: Dish Network)

NEW YORK—In Q3, 2021, traditional cable, telco and satellite video sub losses rose to nearly 1.7 million compared to a year earlier but virtual subscriptions broke out of the doldrums to increase by almost 1.4 million, according to new estimates for total U.S. residential and commercial video subs from Kagan, the media research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

That is helping smooth the losses for multichannel TV providers, Kagan said. 

It reported that the penetration of traditional multichannel TV services in the U.S. fell to only 52.7% in Q3. But when the subs to newer virtual multichannel video packages like Sling TV are included, the penetration rate is much higher, about 63.9% in Q3. 

When the virtual packages were included in the multichannel sub totals, Kagan reported that “the combined total customers with a subscription to a package of live linear networks dropped by an estimated 282,000, while virtual multichannel packages repeated evidence of third-quarter popularity with the return of football and other live sports.”

But Kagan also noted that penetration rates of the “traditional services are slipping toward the symbolic 50% mark. Estimated traditional residential multichannel subscriptions slipped below 68.6 million, accounting for less than 53% of occupied households. The combined virtual and traditional multichannel households accounted for less than 64% of occupied households at 83.2 million residential subscriptions.”

(Image credit: Kagan)
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.