Ampere: ‘Low-Level’ Pay-TV Sub Growth Continues Despite Rampant Cord-Cutting

With U.S. pay-TV operators shedding more than 2 million subscribers in the first quarter, new data from Ampere Analysis finds that worldwide pay-TV continues to grow — albeit slowly.

In a study representing 70 pay-TV operators representing about half of the world’s 1 billion pay-TV subs, subscriber totals increased 0.3% in Q1 than in Q4 2019, indicating that despite the challenging times facing the pay-TV business, and the threats from online competition, there is still at least some low-level growth — when including China.

When removing Chinese market leaders — China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom — there was a net decline of 0.7% in the quarter. This is an acceleration from the 0.5% decline seen in Q4 2019, and indicative of a worsening outlook for the pay-TV market outside China.

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Of the 70 companies followed, 42% saw growth in the quarter, with positive net additions of nearly 5 million subscribers. This was partially offset by the remaining 58%, which lost a total of nearly 3 million subs. The net effect was a growth of just under 2 million pay-TV subscribers in the quarter, according to Ampere.

Again, however, China continues to have a significant role in keeping the global pay-TV market buoyant. Outside mainland China, pay-TV operators in the rest of the world lost nearly 1.7 million net subs.

In fact, the trend outside China is worsening. In the same period 2019, the same group of companies lost 1.2 million net subs.

While U.S. cable and telecoms groups such as Verizon and Comcast saw significant net declines in subscriber numbers, they have been less badly hit by cord-cutting than their satellite rivals, including DirecTV and Dish Network.

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“Of the bellwether pay TV operators we’re tracking, U.S. groups represent more than half of those firms suffering net subscriber declines,” senior analyst Toby Holleran said in a statement. “But losses aren’t evenly distributed even here — IPTV and cable firms have shown more resilience as a consequence of their ability to better bundle communications and pay TV together, insulating themselves against the worst effects of cord-cutting.”

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