Pay-TV Subscriber Losses Widen in Q3 2017

November 27, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

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

The country’s largest Pay-TV providers shed more than 400,000 subscribers during Q3, reports the Leichtman Research Group (LRG), leaving them with slightly more than 92 million subscribers at the end of the quarter. The losses would have been much worse save for large gains in subscribers to internet-delivered services Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW.

Those services added more than half-a-million subscribers (536,000) during the quarter, somewhat offsetting the almost million-subscriber (>943,000) contraction suffered by cable companies, satellite services and phone companies.

Satellite TV services were particularly hard hit during the quarter, shedding 475,000 subscribers, compared to a gain of 5,000 during the year-earlier period. But this looks to be the result of accounting: during the year-earlier period, skinny bundles were counted among Satellite TV service providers – whereas now they are broken out as Internet-Delivered offerings.

It certainly seems as though Satellite TV service customers are moving from traditional services to skinny bundles. DIRECTV had the largest single subscriber loss of any pay-TV company (251,000), but actually gained more DIRECTV NOW subscribers (296,000) than it lost for its traditional pay-TV services. The same pattern was evident for DISH – which shed 224k traditional pay-TV service subscribers but picked up 240k Sling TV subscribers.

While Sling TV has more subscribers overall (almost 1.7 million) than DIRECTV NOW (787k), per LRG’s estimates, recent research from TiVo indicates that DIRECTV NOW’s “Just Right” and “Live a Little” packages cover more core and non-core channels than SlingTV’s skinny bundle offerings. (This is attributed to DIRECTV NOW packages having more channels overall.)

Overall, pay-TV providers’ loss of more than 407,000 subscribers was wider than its loss in Q3 2016 (255,000).

LRG previously reported that pay-TV penetration has sunk below 80% of TV households, down to 79% from a peak of 88% in 2010.

Separately, the opposite trend continued for broadband subscriptions: the largest broadband providers added more than 380k subscribers during the third quarter, bringing their total to more than 94.5 million. Q2 was the first time, according to our analyses, that the broadband subscriber market surpassed the pay-TV market in size.

About the Data: These figures are based on data from the companies themselves as well as LRG estimates. The top cable companies do not include the Cable ONE acquisition of NewWave in May 2017, nor do they include overbuilder WOW. They do include LRG’s estimate for Cox.

The Internet-Delivered segment reflects only DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV, excluding PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, and YouTube TV.


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