Cord-Cutting Slows in Q3

December 17, 2020

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Industries | Media & Entertainment | Pay-TV & Cord-Cutting | Television

LRG Pay TV Subscriber Trends Q3 2020 Dec2020Although pay-TV providers continue to suffer from consumers cutting the cord, the number of subscribers they shed in Q3 2020 was significantly less than it was during the same period last year. That’s according to data from the Leichtman Research Group (LRG), which found that the major traditional pay-TV service providers (excluding internet-delivered services) lost about 1,154,000 net video subscribers in Q3, compared to the 1,760,000 lost in Q3 2019.

The contractions aren’t quite as dramatic when factoring in pay-TV providers’ internet-delivered (vMVPD) services – Hulu+ Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV NOW and fubo TV. These services added 1,035,000 subscribers (compared to 815,000 net subscribers in Q3 2019), bringing them to a total subscriber size of 7.7 million. Adjusting for those, the largest pay-TV providers in the US – representing roughly 95% of the market – lost about 120,000 subscribers, down from a contraction of 945,000 in the third quarter of 2019.

Earlier research from LRG shows that, although the use of vMVPD services continues to grow across all age groups, the largest growth has been with adults ages 45 and older. While only 9% of this age group use vMVPD services, that figure has grown by 50% over 2019.

In a fascinating development that calls attention to the large role that vMVPDs play in the ecosystem, LRG notes that “Hulu + Live TV is now the fifth largest pay-TV service in the U.S.” by subscriber count.

Top Phone Companies Fare Better

As seen in past quarters the top phone companies such as Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse/AT&T TV fared much better than their cable TV and satellite TV counterparts, losing only 4,400 net subscribers in the quarter. This is compared to the loss of roughly 210,000 subscribers a year earlier.

Although the top cable companies’ subscriber losses were greater than phone companies’, these, too, were fewer than the previous year. The top seven cable companies lost more than 372,000 subscribers (versus 410,000 in Q3 2019). Likewise, while satellite TV services lost some 777,000 subscribers in Q3, this is considerably less than the 1,140,000 subscribers shed in the same quarter of 2019.

Broadband Market Continues to Grow

Separate data from LRG highlights the continued growth of the broadband market. The largest providers – representing about 96% of the market – added close to 1,530,000 net subscribers during the quarter, up from the 615,000 gained in Q3 2019.

As has been the trend, cable providers are acquiring the bulk of additional subscribers compared to phone companies (1,320,000 vs 210,000). They also accounted for a 69% market share at the end of Q3 2019.

The top broadband providers collectively had more than 104 million subscribers at the end of the period, about 21 million more than the pay-TV subscriber base (~83 million).


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