Analysis: US pay-TV sheds 5.1m subs in 2020

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Findings from analyst firm Leichtman Research Group indicate that the largest pay-TV providers in the US – representing about 95 per cent of the market – lost about 5,120,000 net video subscribers in 2020, compared to a pro forma net loss of about 4,795,000 in 2019.

The top pay-TV providers now account for about 81.3 million subscribers – with the top seven cable companies having 43.9 million video subscribers, satellite TV services having about 21.8 million subscribers, the top telephone companies having 7.9 million subscribers, and the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay-TV services having 7.7 million subscribers.

Key findings for the year include:

  • Satellite TV services lost about 3,440,000 subscribers in 2020 – compared to a loss of about 3,700,000 subscribers in 2019
  • The top seven cable companies lost about 1,915,000 video subscribers in 2020 – compared to a loss of about 1,560,000 subscribers in 2019
  • The top telephone companies lost about 405,000 video subscribers in 2020 – compared to a loss of about 630,000 subscribers in 2019
  • The top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) services (Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV NOW, and fuboTV) added about 640,000 subscribers in 2020 – compared to about 1,095,000 net adds in 2019
  • Traditional pay-TV services (not including vMVPDs) lost about 5,765,000 subscribers in 2020 – compared to a net loss of about 5,890,000 in 2019
  • AT&T had a net loss of about 3,260,000 subscribers across its four pay-TV services (DirectTV, AT&T U-verse, AT&T TV, and AT&T TV NOW) in 2020 – compared to a net loss of about 4,095,000 subscribers in 2019
    • AT&T ‘Premium TV services (not including the vMVPD service AT&T TV NOW) lost 15.3 per cent of subscribers in 2020 – compared to a 4.6 per cent loss among all other traditional pay-TV services

“Net pay-TV losses of over 5 million subscribers in 2020 were slightly higher than in 2019, and more than in any previous year,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group.  “Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 5.9 per cent of subscribers in 2020, compared to 5.2 per cent in 2019.”


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