Lost in the hoopla of Disney+ surpassing 103 million subscribers in the second quarter (ended April 3) was the reality that the online TV market leader, Hulu + Live TV, lost 200,000 subscribers during the same quarter. The 5% decline from 4 million subs likely attributed in part to a $10 price hike Disney imposed upon the platform last December.
But Hulu isn’t alone. Sling TV, which Dish Network launched in 2015, lost 100,000 subs in the quarter to 2.37 million. AT&T TV, formerly DirecTV Now and AT&T TV Now, reportedly declined to around 650,000 subscribers in early 2020 — about two-thirds fewer subs when the service launched in 2018.
And Google-owned YouTube TV saw its 3 million-sub base unchanged over the past four months, while T-Mobile this year threw in the towel on its upstart TVision platform with about 100,000 subs. Sony’s PlayStation Vue service shuttered in January 2020 after almost five years of sluggish sub growth.
That’s a trend in the wrong direction considering TDG Research in December 2020 predicted strong growth for the 6-year-old market.
“The number of virtual pay-TV households will increase five-fold by the end of the next decade, topping 24 million by 2030,” senior analyst Joel Espelien wrote in a December 2020 note. “Importantly, this growth will come almost exclusively at the cost of legacy subscriptions.”
Indeed, fuboTV and Philo have added subscribers, the former tacking on 42,550 subs to top 590,000 subs in the quarter. Philo says that as of August 2020, it had 750,000 subs.
Overall, the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered pay-TV services combined for about 6.7 million subs — less than 10% of the top pay-TV providers with about 78.7 million combined subs.
“A whole generation of customers likely viewed [online TV] quizzically, as a solution to a problem they didn’t have,” MoffettNathanson wrote in a note last year. “The real issue was the grid. Not the user interface grid, by the way, but instead the very idea of a [program] schedule. Why would anyone want to view entertainment content on a schedule, much less someone else’s schedule?”