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Cable and Satellite TV Are Dying: We Have the Numbers to Prove It

Dish Network

In its quarterly report last week, Leichtman Research Group, Inc. found that the top pay-TV providers in the U.S. lost 1,895,000 video subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, leaving the sector with a total of 78.7 million subscribers.

The cable sector lost 774,196 subscribers, the “other traditional” category, consisting of satellite and telco companies, lost 864,000, and the vMVPD sector lost 257,450 subscribers. The companies included in the report comprise about 95 percent of the total market for pay-TV.

The numbers, as usual from the report, were pulled from the companies’ public earnings reports.

“Pay-TV net losses of about 1.9 million in 1Q 2021 were similar to the net losses in 1Q 2020,” Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc, said in the announcement.  “Over the past year, top pay-TV providers had a net loss of about 4,790,000 subscribers, compared to a loss of about 5,125,000 over the prior year.”

On the cable side, each of the top seven cable companies lost subscribers in the first quarter, with Comcast losing a net total of 491,000, Charter losing 138,000 and Cox dropping 60,000.

AT&T Premium TV, the division that includes DirecTV, dropped 620,000 subscribers, while Dish lost 130,000 and Verizion Fios lost 82,000. With AT&T reaching a deal last year to spin off DirecTV to a separate entity while retaining a majority stake, it’s not clear if the company will continue to report quarterly subscription figures-especially if those figures continue to be bad news.

As for the vMVPD sector, Hulu + Live TV lost 200,000 subscribers to bring the total to 3.8 million, while Sling TV lost 100,000. Fubo TV, in fact, was the only service mentioned in the report that gained subscribers in the first quarter, although it only added 42,550. YouTube TV is not included because Google did not announce a subscriber figure in its most recent earnings report.

The troubles of the vMVPDs have largely been attributed to recent price increases, as most of them have hiked prices at some point in the last year, due to programming fee increases.

Another report this month, from NScreen Media, found that the “number of homes without a traditional pay-TV bundle” has grown 1.8 million to reach 50.5 million.

That report, which also cited Leitchman’s research, found that while the number of homes in the U.S. with cable, satellite, or other traditional pay-TV subscriptions was 96.9 million at the beginning of 2017, that number has gradually eroded over time, going below 90 million in 2018, below 80 million in early 2020, and now settling at just over 75 million.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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