Pay TV shed 2.8 million subs in 2018, mainly DBS

March 6, 2019
2018 was a tough year for U.S. pay TV providers, who lost more than 2.8 million subscribers on the year. Direct broadcast satellite (DBS) ...

2018 was a tough year for U.S. pay TV providers, who lost more than 2.8 million subscribers on the year. Direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers were hardest hit, losing about 2,360,000 subs.

According to the Leichtman Research Group, the largest pay TV providers in the United States - representing about 95% of the market - lost about 2,875,000 net video subscribers in 2018, compared to a pro forma loss of about 1,510,000 subscribers in 2017.

The top pay TV providers account for 89.1 million subscribers, with the top six cable companies having 47 million video subscribers, DBS 29.1 million, telephone companies 9 million, and the top Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay TV services 4 million.

Among the findings:

  • Satellite TV services lost about 2,360,000 subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of about 1,550,000 subscribers in 2017. DirecTV lost 1,236,000 subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of 554,000 subscribers in 2017. In 2018, DBS services cumulatively lost 7.5% of video subscribers, compared to a loss of 4.7% in 2017.
  • The top six cable companies lost about 910,000 video subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of about 680,000 subscribers in 2017. In 2018, the top cable providers cumulatively lost 1.9% of video subscribers, compared to a loss of 1.4% in 2017.
  • The top telephone companies lost about 245,000 video subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of about 885,000 in 2017. AT&T U-verse added 47,000 subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of 624,000 subscribers in 2017. In 2018, the top telcos cumulatively lost 2.6% of video subscribers, compared to a loss of 8.7% in 2017.
  • The top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) services, Sling TV and DirecTV NOW, added about 640,000 subscribers in 2018, compared to about 1,600,000 net adds in 2017. Subscribers to these vMVPD services increased by 19% in 2018, compared to an increase of 90% in 2017.
  • Traditional pay TV services (not including vMVPD) lost about 3,515,000 subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of about 3,110,000 in 2017.

"The pay TV market saw net losses increase in 2018. Overall, the top pay TV providers lost 3.1% of subscribers in 2018 compared to a loss of 1.6% in 2017," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG. "Since the industry's peak in 1Q 2012, pay TV subscribers for the top providers have declined by about 6,000,000. This reflects a decline of about 10,000,000 subscribers for traditional services, offset by the addition of about 4,000,000 subscribers for the publicly reporting vMVPD services."