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6 Million People Quit Cable and Satellite TV (And Even Some Streaming) Last Year

DirecTV Sale
DirecTV Dish. Image: Creative Commons.

Throughout 2020, the trend of consumers getting rid of traditional pay-TV accelerated, and a report late last month found that the trend had continued into 2021.

According to Leichtman Research Group, Inc., which cited public earnings reports from the companies, the top TV providers lost 1,895,000 video subscribers in the first three months of 2021, leaving the cable sector with 78.7 million subscribers.

The cable side lost 774,196 subscribers, while the satellite sector lost 864,000 subscribers and the vMVPD sector lost 257,450 subscribers in the first quarter.

Now, another new report has shown similar results.

MoffettNathanson’s also releases a quarterly Cord-Cutting Monitor, and this year’s found that the sector dropped 2 million subscribers, per a writeup by Light Reading. MoffettNathanson found that cable dropped about 852,000 subscribers while satellite lost 716,000 and telephone companies lost 148,000.

The firm found that the industry as a whole lost 6 million subscribers in 2020. And that after the first quarter, the percentage of U.S. households that subscribe to pay-TV has now dropped below 60 percent.

“In percentage terms, the result is the second [quarter] worst on record,” analyst Craig Moffett said in the report, as cited by Light Reading.

Also noted was that the virtual multichannel video programing distributors (vMVPD) sector, long considered a potential savior of the industry, has also begun to lose subscribers.

“At the start of the vMVPD rollout cycle, we strongly believed that these services would ultimately be more successful by offering mainly news, sports and broadcast TV packages at prices staring below $50,” Moffett wrote. “However, due to industry consolidation and the ever-present 5% to 7% of annual per-subscriber price increases from programmers, the business case of less channels for less money was impossible to achieve.”

The report did state that YouTube TV and Fubo TV both increased their numbers of subscribers in the first quarter, even as Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV lost subscribers. Nathanson also pointed out that the vMVPD services tend to show seasonal strength and weakness, with some signing up just for football season.

The MoffettNathanson report also commented on the potential effects of the recently announced merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery Networks.

“There is no small irony in the observation that the deal to combine WarnerMedia and Discovery will, at least initially, have a far greater impact on linear TV than it will on streaming,” Moffett wrote in the report. “Yes, the deal is ostensibly about assembling the right assets for a DTC future. But perhaps its most significant impact early on will be that it slows rather than hastens the pace of the transition.”

 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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