Pay-TV Cord-Cutting Slightly Eases in Q1

June 7, 2018

This article is included in these additional categories:

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

Pay-TV providers are still facing cord-cutting behavior from consumers, but Q1 2018 turned out to be slightly less painful than the year-earlier period, according to data from the Leichtman Research Group (LRG). Traditional pay-TV services (excluding internet-delivered services) shed roughly 710,000 subscribers in Q1 of this year, compared to 780,000 in Q1 2017.

The numbers look better when factoring in pay-TV providers’ internet-delivered services – Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW. Those services added more than 400,000 subscribers during the quarter (compared to 265,000 net adds in Q1 2017), bringing them to a total subscriber size of almost 3.8 million. Adjusting for those, the largest pay-TV providers in the US – representing roughly 95% of the market – lost roughly 305,000 subscribers, down from a contraction of 515,000 subscribers in Q1 2017.

The top telephone providers in particular fared well in Q1. With a net loss of fewer than 50,000 subscribers, these providers had their best quarter since Q3 2015. For comparison, in Q1 2017 these providers shed 325,000 subscribers.

Other providers couldn’t say the same, though. The top cable companies’ subscriber losses widened from roughly 115,000 in Q1 2017 to 285,000 this past quarter. And the top satellite TV services shed slightly more subscribers this past quarter (~375,000) than in the year-earlier period (~340,000).

Of course, perennially low customer satisfaction ratings aren’t helping, particularly as pay-TV providers suffer from low value perception, unlike skinny bundles and streaming services.

All told, the top pay-TV providers had close to 91.9 million subscribers at the end of the period. Traditional pay-TV providers have shed about 7.2 million subscribers since their peak in Q1 2012, per the report, although they’ve offset some of those losses with a gain of 3.8 million subscribers for Internet-delivered services.

Finally, separate LRG data demonstrates that the broadband market continues to expand, with the largest providers (again representing about 95% of the market) adding roughly 800,000 subscribers during the quarter. The market continues to shift towards cable providers at the expense of phone companies, with the former having a 64% market share at the end of Q1 2018, up from 61% at the end of Q1 2016.

The top broadband providers collectively had more than 96.5 million subscribers at the end of the period, almost 5 million more than the pay-TV subscriber base.


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