Dish Posts 815,000 Combined Q1 Pay-TV, Sling TV Sub Loss

The first fiscal quarter of 2022 was not a good one for Dish Network. The long-time satellite TV operator reported significant subscriber losses in both its legacy pay-TV business as well as pioneering online TV segment.

The company reported a first-quarter (ended March 31) loss of 693,000 legacy pay-TV subscribers, to end the period with 7.99 million paying subs. That compared with 8.68 million subs in the prior-year period. In its pioneering online TV business unit, Sling TV saw a sub loss of 122,000 to end the period with 2.25 million subs, compared with 2.37 million a year ago.

At the end of the quarter, Dish had 10.245 million combined pay-TV/online TV subscribers in the U.S.

The Sling TV sub loss is especially significant since the service was seen as a savior to the declining pay-TV industry since its launch in 2015. Instead, the online TV market is now led by Hulu + Live TV and Google TV, among others.

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Report: Pay-TV Subscriber Losses Dipped 4% to About 4.7 Million in 2021

The pay-TV bundle continues to shrink, albeit more slowly. New data from Leichtman Research Group found that the largest pay-TV providers in the United States, representing about 93% of the market, lost almost 4.7 million net video subscribers in 2021, which is down 4% from a net loss of about 4.87 million in 2020.

The top pay-TV operators now account for about 76.1 million subs — with the top seven cable companies having 41.3 million video subs, other traditional pay-TV services having more than 26.8 million subs, and the top publicly reporting online pay-TV services having 7.9 million subs.

Specifically, the top cable providers had a net loss of about 2.7 million video subs in 2021 — compared with a loss of about 1.95 million subscribers in 2020. Other traditional pay-TV services had a net loss of about 2.9 million subs in 2021 — compared with a loss of about 3.85 million subs in 2020.

The top publicly reporting online TV platforms added about 895,000 subs in 2021 — compared with a gain of about 915,000 subs in 2020. Traditional pay-TV services (not including online TV) had a net loss of about 5.6 million subs in 2021 — compared with a net loss of about 5.8 million in 2020.

“While the pay-TV industry continued to lose subscribers, net losses in 2021 were fairly similar to those in recent years,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “In 2021, the top pay-TV providers had a net loss of about 4.7 million subs, compared with a loss of about 4.9 million subs in 2020, and a loss of 4.1 million in 2019.”

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Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at end of 2021 Net Adds in 2021
Cable Companies
Comcast 18,176,000 (1,670,000)
Charter 15,833,000 (367,000)
Cox 3,390,000 (260,000)
Altice 2,732,300 (240,900)
Mediacom 572,000 (71,000)
Breezeline/Atlantic Broadband 346,729 (36,271)
Cable One 261,000 (50,000)
Total Top Cable 41,311,029 (2,695,171)
Other Traditional Services
DIRECTV 14,600,000 (1,905,000)
DISH TV (DBS) 8,221,000 (595,000)
Verizon Fios (Telco) 3,644,000 (283,000)
Frontier (Telco) 380,000 (105,000)
Total Top Other Traditional 26,845,000 (2,888,000)
Online TV
Hulu + Live TV 4,300,000 300,000
Sling TV 2,486,000 12,000
fuboTV 1,129,807 581,927


Total Top Online TV 7,915,807 893,927
Total Top Providers 76,071,836 (4,689,244)

Nielsen: Streaming Video Still Lags Behind Pay-TV, Broadcast Use

It may be an over-the-top video ecosystem, but combined legacy pay-TV and broadcast use continues to dominate U.S. households, according to new data from Nielsen.

Driven largely by live sports (up 7%), including college football bowl games, the cable television market share in December 2021 held steady at 37.2%, while broadcast tracked at 26.1% among households with at least two people. That compared with 27.7% for streaming video households, led by Netflix with 6.4% market share — just ahead of YouTube at 5.8%.

Notably, the “other streaming” category topped all streamers with 8.9% market share, driven by video games and packaged media, including DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

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Like in November, Brian Fuhrer, SVP of product strategy at Nielsen, attributed the strong linear TV use to the winter holidays and increased numbers of consumers, including children, with excess free time on their hands.

That trend, however, changed during the Christmas week, when U.S. consumers’ streaming usage reached 183 billion minutes, up almost 3% from 178 billion minutes streamed over the Thanksgiving week. Indeed, streaming topped 33% market share during Christmas week.

Comcast Ups Q3 Cable Sub Loss to 382,000

Comcast Cable Oct. 28 reported it lost 382,000 legacy pay-TV subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That is up more than 50% from a sub loss of 253,000 during the previous-year period. Comcast ended the period with 17.8 million video subs, down from 19.2 million a year ago.

The declines reflect ongoing secular declines in pay-TV as consumers migrate to over-the-top video platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

The nation’s largest cable operator has lost more than 1.1 million pay-TV subs in 2021 since Jan. 1, excluding the loss of 147,000 retail subscribers. That’s up from 1 million in the previous-year period.

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On the positive side, Comcast is one of the biggest ISPs in the world — the lifeline for streaming video delivered into the home. The company added 281,000 high-speed internet subscribers, to end the period with 29.3 million subs. That’s up more than 5% from 27.8 million broadband subs last year. Comcast has another 2.3 million business broadband subscribers.

U.S. Pay-TV Households Still Top 70%

Who said pay-TV is dead?

New data from Leichtman Research Group suggests 71% of domestic TV households nationwide have some form of pay-TV service. The percentage homes with either cable, satellite, telecom, or online TV is down from 82% in 2016, 87% in 2011, and 86% in 2006.

Not surprisingly, pay-TV household penetration rises with age.

About 64% of adults ages 18-44 have some form of pay-TV service, while 77% of ages 45+ have service, according to a survey of 2,000 households. By comparison, 77% of the younger demo had service in 2016, in addition to 86% of the older demo.

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Other survey results include that 41% of those that moved in the past year do not currently have a pay-TV service — a higher level than in previous years. Another 35% of renters do not have a pay-TV service — compared to 25% of homeowners.

About 30% of non pay-TV subscribers last had service within the past three years; 36% had service more than three years ago, and 34% never had service.

Leichtman found that 26% of adult respondents approved using a friend’s log-in passwords to watch live TV, including 40% of among younger respondents. Another 37% of all TV sets in use have a traditional pay-TV providers’ set-top box — compared to 58% in 2016.

“The percent of U.S. TV households with a live pay-TV service [has] significantly,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “The penetration of pay-TV remains lowest among younger adults and the categories that they tend to populate, including movers and renters.”

U.S. Broadband Homes Without Pay-TV Projected to Hit 58 Million by 2025

The cord-cutting continues. New reported data from TDG Research contends the number of U.S. households with high-speed internet and without pay-TV service will reach 54 million by 2025. The tally was 38 million homes in 2020.

The projection underscores ongoing trends among major pay-TV operators such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, which have seen their broadband subscriptions skyrocket while linear-TV subs plummet. Broadband is the pipeline distributing over-the-top video into homes.

Beginning in 2010, just 8% of high-speed internet subs had jettisoned pay-TV. That percentage doubled in 2015, reaching 35% in 2020. A majority of domestic broadband homes with pay-TV is expected by 2026.

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“A decade ago, the [broadband only] segment was comprised almost exclusively of bleeding-edge adopters — those defined by a fascination with new products and services and a pocketbook to fund their experiments,” senior analyst Paul Hockenbury said in a statement. “Today, the BBO segment is largely defined by early-mainstream dispositions: buying only when the price has come down, the technology has peer-demonstrated benefits, and plenty of support is available.”

Interestingly, broadband homes without pay-TV still consume a lot of small-screen entertainment — reportedly just 10% less than the 31 hours consumed weekly by pay-TV households.

Among cord-cutters, about 60% of TV viewing is done via streaming video, which is 50% more than broadband homes with pay-TV. Not surprisingly, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu are the top-streamed services among BBO households, with Hulu 10% more popular than high-speed internet homes with pay-TV.

About 66% of broadband-only homes stream AVOD content, with 76% opting for YouTube, compared with 36% for Pluto TV. More than 33% of  BBO homes also use a digital TV antenna, consuming 12 hours of content weekly.

Roku: British Consumers Prefer Streaming Video to Pay-TV

New survey data released by Roku finds that for live sports, traditionally the bastion of pay-TV, 51% of British respondents are now streaming. Another 68% said having digital access to a new movie release is a key reason they would try a new streaming service.

The results come from a survey conducted by National Research Group July 24-30 on behalf of Roku, featuring 934 respondents 18 to 70 years old who watch at least five hours of TV per week via traditional pay-TV service.

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The Streaming Decade” report suggests that TV streaming has reached a tipping point, with 90% of survey respondents saying they are TV streamers, versus 70% who use traditional pay-TV services such as Sky, BT and Virgin Media.

“The findings show that streaming is becoming the norm for all ages,” Mirjam Laux, VP international at Roku, said in a statement. “With more and more new and interesting content available to consumers, streaming has become the dominant force for consumers.”

Indeed, 66% of respondents chose streaming, while 23% chose traditional pay-TV when they wanted to watch something. Nearly two-thirds of 57- to 70-year-olds agree that streaming represents better value, is more convenient and has greater variety than pay-TV.

Another 73% who have signed up for ad-supported VOD services plan to keep them, while 79% plan to keep subscription services (SVOD).

Meanwhile, TV streamers are loyal — almost two-thirds of U.K. consumers have never subscription-cycled, (where users sign up, cancel, and then sign up again). Only 3% have definite plans to cancel a subscription streaming service in the next year.

Streaming Services Up Pay-TV Consumer Expectations

A crush of streaming video services has raised expectations among pay-TV consumers, according to new data from J.D. Power.

The J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Residential Television Service Provider Satisfaction Study, based on responses from 21,555 pay-TV subscribers from October 2020 through July 2021, found that satisfaction was 81 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) for those also subscribing to an over-the-top video service than among those who do not have a streaming service.

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Indeed, 91% of respondents with a SVOD service said they would not be dropping their TV service in the next 12 months — suggesting they have not found all of what they are looking for outside of the traditional pay-TV bundle.

“The use of streaming services not only provides a more cost-effective way to watch television, it also provides the ability to stream personalized and live content anytime, anywhere,” Ian Greenblatt, managing director at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “Customers with highly satisfying streaming experiences will continue to seek increased convenience, personalization and relevant content elsewhere if not delivered by traditional television providers.”

Parks: 82% of U.S. Broadband Homes Have at Least One OTT Service Subscription

Parks Associates disclosed that 82% of U.S. broadband households subscribe to at least one OTT service, up six points year-over-year, while 58% subscribe to a traditional pay-TV service, down four points year-over-year.

“The steady rise in online pay-TV adoption has made up for some of the significant drops in traditional pay-TV,” Steve Nason, research director for Parks Associates, said in a statement. “Video consumers are looking to online pay-TV services to offer a similar viewing experience and content offering at a lower price point. However, online providers, who don’t typically generate content on their own, have had trouble stabilizing subscriber costs as content fees continue to rise.”

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Dallas-based Parks reports that 25% of domestic broadband households subscribe to a TV service offering a bundle of live channels via an online provider, including 13% who have both traditional and online pay-TV services. Adoption of online TV increased four percentage points to 18% in Q1 2021. As cord-cutters or cord-nevers look for a more live/linear video viewing experience online, online  service uptake has picked up.

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many existing trends in the video services market,” Nason said. “Moving forward, consumer preferences will continue to shift online as video viewers perceive these services to be less costly, more convenient, and more aligned with how they want to consume video programming.”

Comcast Cable Q2 Sub Loss Cools, Broadband Gain Skyrockets

As expected, Comcast Cable, the nation’s largest pay-TV operator, saw continued consumer migration away from linear television to over-the-top video distribution. The cabler said it lost 399,000 residential and business video subscribers in the second quarter, ended June 30, to finish the period with more than 18.9 million subs. That compared with a sub loss of 477,000 during the previous-year period, ending at 20.3 million total subs.

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Year-to-date sub losses top 889,000, which is par with 887,000 sub loss in the previous-year period.

On the flip side, Comcast added 354,000 high-speed Internet subs, ending the quarter with 31.3 million subs. That compared with a gain of 323,000 subs and 29.4 million broadband subs in the previous-year period. Year-to-date, Comcast has added 814,000 broadband subs compared with 800,000 additions last year.

Cable revenue increased 14.5% to $7.1 billion in the quarter of 2021, reflecting higher revenue, partially offset by an 8.2% increase in operating expenses largely due to the return of live sports events.

“At cable, our performance was exceptional, highlighted by 11% revenue and 15% [adjusted pre-tax earnings] growth, the best broadband and total customer relationship net additions on record for a second quarter,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement.