U.S. pay TV posts record sub losses in 2Q

The second quarter of 2019 was a tough one for the U.S. pay TV industry, with higher subscriber losses - more than 1.5 million - than in any previous quarter. According to the ...

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The second quarter of 2019 was a tough one for the U.S. pay TV industry, with higher subscriber losses - more than 1.5 million - than in any previous quarter.

According to the Leichtman Research Group, the largest pay TV providers in the United States - representing about 93% of the market - lost about 1,530,000 net video subscribers in 2Q 2019, compared to a pro forma net loss of about 420,000 subscribers in 2Q 2018.

The top pay TV providers now account for about 86.6 million subscribers - with the top seven cable companies having 46.5 million video subscribers, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) TV services 27.5 million subscribers, the top telephone companies 8.8 million subscribers, and the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay TV services 3.8 million subscribers.

Findings for the quarter indicate:

  • Satellite TV services lost about 855,000 subscribers in 2Q 2019, compared to a net loss of about 480,000 subscribers in 2Q 2018. DIRECTV had record net losses for the fifth consecutive quarter, while DISH TV had fewer net losses than in any quarter since 4Q 2014.
  • The top seven cable companies lost about 455,000 video subscribers in 2Q 2019, compared to a loss of about 275,000 subscribers in 2Q 2018. Cable net losses were more than in any quarter since 2Q 2014.
  • The top telephone providers lost about 100,000 video subscribers in 2Q 2019, compared to a loss of about 45,000 subscribers in 2Q 2018.
  • Internet-delivered (vMVPD) services Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW lost 120,000 subscribers in 2Q 2019, compared to about 385,000 net adds in 2Q 2018.
  • Over the past year, top pay TV providers had a net loss of about 5,015,000 subscribers - compared to a loss of about 1,060,000 subscribers over the prior year. Over the past year, DBS services lost about 3,175,000 subscribers, compared to a loss of about 1,590,000 subscribers over the prior year. Over the past year, publicly reporting vMVPDs lost about 340,000 subscribers, compared to a gain of 1,845,000 subscribers over the prior year.

"The top pay TV providers had a net loss of about 1,530,000 subscribers in 2Q 2019. This marked the fourth consecutive quarter of record pay TV industry net losses," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG. "With an increased focus on acquiring and retaining profitable subscribers, DBS services accounted for more than half of the net pay TV losses in 2Q 2019 and 63% of the losses over the past year."        

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