Analyst: DTH drags down US Q3 pay-TV subs

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Findings from research and analysis firm Leichtman Research Group indicate that the largest pay-TV providers in the US – representing about 95 per cent of the market – lost about 975,000 net video subscribers in 3Q 2018, compared to a pro forma loss of about 410,000 subscribers in 3Q 2017.

The top pay-TV providers now account for about 90.3 million subscribers – with the top six cable companies having 47.1 million video subscribers, satellite TV services 29.9 million subscribers, the top telephone companies 9.1 million subscribers, and the top Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay-TV services 4.2 million subscribers.

Key findings for the quarter include:

  • Satellite TV services lost about 725,000 subscribers in 3Q 2018 – compared to a loss of about 470,000 subscribers in 3Q 2017
    • DBS [DTH] net losses were more than in any previous quarter
    • Net losses for DirecTV were more than in any previous quarter
  • The top six cable companies lost about 245,000 video subscribers in 3Q 2018 – compared to a loss of about 290,000 subscribers in 3Q 2017
  • The top telephone providers lost about 80,000 video subscribers in 3Q 2018 – compared to a loss of 180,000 subscribers in 3Q 2017
  • Internet-delivered (vMVPD) services, Sling TV and DirecTV NOW, added 75,000 subscribers in 3Q 2018 – compared to about 530,000 net adds in 3Q 2017
    • Net vMVPD adds in 3Q 2018 were fewer than in any quarter since their debut
  • Traditional pay-TV services (not including vMVPD) lost about 1,050,000 subscribers in 3Q 2018 – compared to a loss of about 940,000 in 3Q 2017

“Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost about 975,000 subscribers in 3Q 2018.  This marked the most net losses ever in a quarter for the pay-TV industry,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. “Satellite TV services had more combined net losses in 3Q 2018 than in any previous quarter.  These net losses were largely driven by corporate strategies focused on acquiring and retaining more profitable subscribers (as well as a programming carriage issue between DISH and Univision).  A related emphasis on improving the profitability of the satellite TV company’s Internet-delivered flanker brands reduced net quarterly adds in the segment, resulting in vMVPDs not helping to mitigate overall pay-TV losses to the degree they had in recent quarters.”

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at end of 3Q 2018 Net Adds in 3Q 2018
Cable Companies
Comcast 22,015,000 (106,000)
Charter 16,628,000 (54,000)
Cox 4,035,000 (30,000)
Altice 3,322,800 (28,100)
Mediacom 793,000 (15,000)
Cable ONE 328,921 (11,191)
Total Top Cable 47,122,721 (244,291)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DirecTV 19,625,000 (359,000)
DISH TV 10,286,000 (367,000)
Total DBS 29,911,000 (726,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,497,000 (63,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,693,000 13,000
Frontier 873,000 (29,000)
Total Top Phone 9,063,000 (79,000)
Internet-Delivered (vMVPD)
Sling TV 2,370,000 26,000
DirecTV NOW 1,858,000 49,000
Total Top vMVPD 4,228,000 75,000
Total Top Providers 90,324,721 (974,291)

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

Internet-delivered (vMVPD) does not include PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, or YouTube TV, which do not publicly report subscribers.


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