January 29, 2020
The pay-TV subscriber drain is no longer a drip. It’s a bursting dam.
AT&T Jan. 29 announced it lost more than 3.4 million linear TV subscribers in 2019, including 945,000 subs in the fourth quarter, ended Dec . 31. That compared with sub losses of 1.2 million and 391,000, respectively, in the previous-year periods.
Pay-TV, which includes DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, ended the year with 19.4 million subs — down 15.3% from 22.9 million at the end of 2018.
More disconcerting is that AT&T’s much publicized foray into over-the-top video distribution isn’t resonating with consumers. AT&T Now TV, the brand name replacement for DirecTV Now, shed 665,000 subs last year, up 52% from a loss of 436,000 subs in 2018.
The online TV drop-off abated somewhat in Q4 to 219,000 subs, an improvement from 267,000 subs lost in the previous-year period. AT&T ended the year with 926,000 TV Now subs, a 42% decline from 1.6 million subs at the end of 2018.
And unlike rival Comcast supplanting pay-TV subs with high-speed Internet, AT&T actually lost broadband subs in 2019. That included a 1% decline in broadband and 23% drop in DSL. The telecom ended the year with 14.1 million high-speed Internet subs compared to 14.4 million in 2018.
With AT&T’s WarnerMedia readying the launch of HBO Max and rebranded (again) AT&T TV, CEO Randall Stephenson remains upbeat.
“We delivered what we promised in 2019 and we begin this year with strong momentum in wireless, with HBO Max set to launch in May and our share retirement plan well underway,” Stephenson said in a statement. “Our 2020 outlook positions us to deliver meaningful progress on our 3-year financial and capital allocation plans as we continue to invest in growth opportunities and create value for our owners, as we did last year.”