Every week it seems like there is one more market research report published which drives one yet more nail into the pay-TV coffin. This week, Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) published data which show the most prominent pay-TV providers in the United States lost well over a million subscribers in the first quarter of 2019 (1Q 2019), up over 300% from last year’s first quarter losses. Are we witnessing the end of traditional pay-TV as we know it?
It sure seems like it. The top pay-TV subscribers which make up around 95% of the market lost approximately 1,325,000 in the first four months of the year. Last year, those same companies lost just 305,000 subscribers in the same period.
The worst-hit companies were satellite TV services, who lost well over 800,000 subscribers in 1Q 2019 compared to 375,000 lost subscribers in 1Q 2018. Meanwhile, the top six cable companies lost a combined total of about 335,000 cable subscribers in 1Q 2019, up about 50,000 from last year’s first quarter losses. Unfortunately for them, AT&T accounted for nearly half of all the net losses in Q1 2019.
“Overall, the top pay-TV providers had a net loss about 1,325,000 subscribers in 1Q 2019. The leading pay-TV provider in the U.S., AT&T, accounted for 47% of the net losses in the quarter,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and lead analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. in a press release. “1Q 2019 was the third consecutive quarter of record pay-TV net losses. This accelerated downturn in the pay-TV market coincided with the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability when acquiring and retaining subscribers.”
It’s not just pay-TV providers who are hurting, though; pay telephone providers like AT&T, Frontier, and Verizon lost about 105,000 video subscribers in the first quarter, twice as many as last year. Several of the top internet-based TV providers like Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW also lost subscribers in the first quarter at a loss of around 75,000. In 1Q 2018, those same companies added over 400,000 subscribers.
Why the sudden turnaround for streaming television? Are more subscribers opting for free streaming choices, or are people just watching less TV?