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Leichtman: Near 20% Drop in U.S. Pay-TV Subs in Past 15 Years

The number of U.S. households subscribing to a pay-TV service continues to decline. New consumer research from Leichtman Research Group finds that 66% of TV households nationwide have some form of pay-TV service (cable, satellite, telecom, online TV) — down from 79% in 2017, 88% in 2012, and 85% in 2007.

About 31% of non-subscribers last had pay-TV service within the past three years, 35% had pay-TV service over three years ago, and 34% never had service. Among the latter, 52% are younger millennials, ages 18-34, compared to 27% of former pay-TV subscribers.

The report, which is based on a survey of 1,850 U.S. households, found that 73% of adults ages 45+ have a pay-TV service — compared with 57% of ages 18-44.

Notably, the more televisions a household has, the more likely it is to have pay-TV service. More than 73% of households with three or more TVs have a pay-TV service, compared with 65% with two TVs, and 52% with one TV. About 13% of pay-TV subs are likely to switch from their provider in the next six months — compared with 14% in 2020, and 13% in 2017.

“The decline in pay-TV subscribers is not solely a function of those disconnecting services, it is also related to a slowdown in those entering or reentering the category,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “Overall, about 10.5% of TV households last subscribed to pay-TV service in the past three years, 12% last subscribed over three years ago, and 11.5% never subscribed.”

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