Pay-TV Subscriber Losses Widen in 2017 As Cord-Cutting Accelerates

March 20, 2018

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Industries | Media & Entertainment | Pay-TV & Cord-Cutting | Television | Video

The top pay-TV providers in the US – representing about 95% of the market – lost 1.6% of their subscribers last year, double their attrition rate from 2016 (0.8%), reports the Leichtman Research Group (LRG). And that’s even when factoring in newer so-called skinny bundles and internet-delivered services from these providers – such as Sling TV – which gained 90% more subscribers last year.

Discounting those internet-delivered services, traditional pay-TV services shed more than 3 million subscribers last year, a significant increase from fewer than 2 million in 2016.

Counting subscribers for internet-delivered services, the total pay-TV market contracted to the tune of roughly 1.5 million subscribers last year, almost double the number (~800,000) from 2016. The pace of cord-cutting has clearly been accelerating, as the major subscribers bled fewer than 126,000 subscribers as recently as 2014, a tiny 0.13% of their subscriber base at that time.

The report shows that all types of providers were hit hard last year, though some worse than others:

  • The top telephone providers – such as – Verizon FiOS – shed a massive 8.7% of their video subscribers, although that was a better result than 2016 (-13.6%);
  • The churn rate for the top satellite TV services was 4.7%, a significant shift after a 0.1% loss in 2016; and
  • The top cable companies lost 1.4% of their subscribers, a relatively moderate loss but still more than double the rate from 2016 (-0.6%).

For comparison’s sake, Netflix had 52.8 million paying subscribers in the US as of the end of 2017, which was almost 5 million more than the top cable companies combined.

Meanwhile, the broadband market continues to expand, per LRG, which of course has implications for services such as Netflix (but which also features similar providers as the pay-TV market). The top broadband companies – representing 95% of the market – added more than 2 million subscribers last year. Cable companies fared particularly well, with more than 2.7 million subscriber additions, as the top telecommunications companies lost almost 626,000 subscribers.

As we reported last year, the broadband subscriber market is now well and truly larger than the pay-TV subscriber market.

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