Pay-TV Pandemic: Record 2.33 Million Subs Lost in Q1

The steady drip of pay-TV subscriber losses has turned into a broken water main. New data from informitv finds that U.S. distributors lost a combined 2.33 million subscribers in the fiscal period ended March 31.

Pay-TV operators’ combined sub count fell below 75 million, down from 84 million during the same period in 2018. AT&T suffered the biggest losses, shedding 897,000 subscribers and an additional 135,000 AT&T TV Now subs, for a combined loss of over a million.

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Dish Network ended the quarter with 382,000 fewer satellite subs and 281,000 fewer for its Sling TV online television service. Comcast Cable lost 388,000 subs. It was its twelfth consecutive quarterly sub loss, with its total falling below 20 million for the first time in almost two decades.

Verizon Fios TV subs declined by 84,000, marking 13 consecutive quarterly falls, taking it down to 4.07 million, from a high of 5.86 million four years previously. Charter Spectrum lost 70,000 television subs, marking its ninth consecutive quarterly loss, down by over 400,000 in twelve months to 15.55 million.

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Altice, Mediacom and Frontier lost 97,700 television subs combined in the quarter, and a total of 372,600 over twelve months.

“This is the largest quarterly loss of television subscribers in the United States we have reported to date,” Dr. William Cooper, the editor of the informitv Multiscreen Index, said in a statement. “The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to this, but many service providers have been losing subscribers for some time. Notably, their newer online services are now no exception to this trend.”

The top 10 services for the United States in the Multiscreen Index now have 74.65 million television customers between them, accounting for 62% of television homes. Subscriber numbers are as reported by service providers, rather than analyst estimates. Cox Communications is not included in the top 10 as it does not report sub numbers.

“It is difficult to determine how far these [sub] losses can be attributed to economic conditions and how much to an accelerating long-term structural decline,” added analyst Dr. Sue Farrell.

Pay-TV Operators Lost Nearly 1.3 Million Subs in Q1

As expected, pay-TV operators lost myriad subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) due to ongoing consumer adoption of new home entertainment distribution options, including over-the-top video.

The top-10 pay-TV operators lost nearly a combined 1.3 million subscribers in the period, spearheaded by satellite TV, according to new data from Informitv. That loss is nearly 50% of all subscribers who cancelled service in 2018.

AT&T led all multichannel video program distributors with 544,000 subs lost through its DirecTV (satellite), U-verse and DirecTV Now brands. Dish Network lost 266,000 subs, or 1.2 million in the past 12 months.

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Charter Spectrum lost 152,000 subs, while Comcast lost 107,000. Verizon Fios lost 53,000, while Frontier and Mediacom lost 54,000 and 12,000, respectively. The ongoing industry losses prompted Cox Communications to stop revealing subscriber data.

The top 10 MVPD providers now penetrate about 70% of domestic households with nearly 82 million subscribers.

“They still command a significant number of customers, but the rate of attrition has increased,” Dr. William Cooper, editor of the Informitv, said in a statement.