The US Pay-TV Subscriber Churn Rate Has Now Doubled For 3 Consecutive Years

April 4, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

Industries | Media & Entertainment | Pay-TV & Cord-Cutting | Telecom | Television

The top pay-TV providers in the US — representing close to 95% of the market — have seen their percentage of lost subscribers double year-over-year for three consecutive years now, according to a MarketingCharts analysis of data from Leichtman Research Group (LRG). In 2018 pay-TV providers shed more than 3% of their subscriber base, nearly twice the percentage loss from 2017 (-1.6%).

Discounting those internet-delivered services such as Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW, which saw an increase of 19% in 2018 (compared to the 90% experienced in 2017), traditional pay-TV services lost more than 3.5 million subscribers last year. That’s up from a contraction of 3.1 million subscribers in 2017.

Counting subscribers for Internet-delivered services, the total pay-TV market shed roughly 2.9 million subscribers last year, almost double the number (~1.5 million) from 2017. The pace of cord-cutting continues to accelerate, as the major subscribers churned fewer than 126,000 subscribers as recently as 2014.

Again this year, the report shows that all types of providers were hit hard, though some worse than others:

  • The top telephone providers – such as Verizon FiOS shed 2.6% of their video subscribers, although that was a better result than 2017 (-8.7%);
  • The churn rate for the top satellite TV services was 7.5%, compared to a loss of 4.7% in 2017; and
  • The top cable companies lost 1.9% of their subscribers, up from their loss of 1.4% in 2017.

By contrast, Netflix had 58.5 million paying subscribers in the US as of the end of 2018, which was almost 11.5 million more than the top cable companies combined.

Meanwhile, separate figures from LRG show that the broadband subscriber market continues to expand. This is good news for those companies who offer both broadband and pay-TV: while it does have the potential to increase demand for services such as Netflix, it at least offsets revenue losses on the pay-TV side.

The top broadband companies – representing 95% of the market – added about 2.4 million net subscribers last year. Cable companies fared particularly well, with more than 2.9 million subscriber additions, while the top telecommunications companies lost almost 470,000 subscribers.

As such, the main losers from cord-cutting may actually be advertisers. Other data has shown that television is losing out to digital as the primary paid media channel for driving brand conversations and that young people are watching less traditional TV.

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