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Pay TV Subscribers Decline for 4th Consecutive Quarter

by Michael Goodman | Jun 12, 2019

According to Strategy Analytics, North American Pay TV Index, for the fourth consecutive quarter, pay TV services (i.e., cable, satellite, IPTV, vMVPDs) declined, losing 997K subscribers in 1Q 2019, bringing the total number of pay TV households in the U.S. to 91.512 million.

Driving this loss were legacy pay TV services (i.e., cable, satellite, IPTV), which lost a combined 1.550M subscribers in 1Q 2019, falling to 83.480M subscribers. DIRECTV, down an estimated 535K subscribers, and DISH Network, down 536K subscribers, accounted for 69% of legacy pay TV subscriber losses in 1Q 2019. Given the ongoing losses both DIRECTV and DISH Network continue to experience, AT&T (the corporate parent of DIRECTV) and DISH Network must start to stem these loses, look to extract themselves from these markets, or merge.

Unlike past quarters growth among vMVPDs was insufficient to offset this steep decline. In 1Q 2019, vMVPDs added 553K subscribers, up 7.4% QoQ, but still well bellow the 927K they had been averaging previously. While DIRECTV NOW losses are slowing it continues to be a drag on overall vMVPD totals. For more detailed information on vMVPDs see the U.S. vMVPD Subscribers, by Provider database. Despite slowing growth in the vMVPD sector, Hulu Live TV (+450K) and YouTube TV (+100K) saw significant growth in 1Q 2019.

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Among cable operators, Charter once again was the biggest loser, down 152K subscribers, while Frontier was the biggest loser among IPTV services, down 54K subscribers in 1Q 2019. DISH Network has once again been particularly hard hit by subscriber losses (536K) with this marking the 21st consecutive quarter that DISH Network has lost subscribers.

Two of the biggest cable operators, Charter and Comcast, lost the most subscribers among cable operators, shedding 152K and 107K subscribers respectively. These two cable operators accounted for nearly 74% of cable TV subscriber losses. Overall, cable operators lost 1.117M subscribers in 2018, accounting for 25% of legacy pay TV losses in the past 12 months.

Clients of Strategy Analytics TV & Media (TMS) service can read our in-depth analysis on the state of the North American pay TV market here or if you are interested in purchasing the North American Pay TV Index please contact mgoodman@strategyanalytics.com.

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