DirecTV Subs Plunged By 3M In 2020 Amid Record 5.1M Pay-TV Loss

Net subscribers to DirecTV plunged by an estimated 3 million last year, accounting for nearly 60% of a combined subscriber loss of 5.1 million for the pay-TV companies that represent 95% of the U.S. market, according to Leichtman Research Group.

In comparison, rival satellite TV provider Dish TV lost a relatively modest estimated 408,000 subs, likely providing more fuel to ongoing speculation about an eventual Dish/DirecTV merger.

The 5.1 million overall pay-TV loss is a record — and up nearly 7% from 2019’s loss of 4.8 million.

Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 5.9% of their subscribers in 2020, on top of losing 5.2% in 2019.

Next to DirecTV — from which AT&T this week finally managed to extricate itself in part, through a complex deal with investment firm TPG — Comcast cable sustained the largest loss: down 1.4 million net subs.

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Among other cable companies, Altice USA lost 236,800, Cox lost 215,000, and Mediacom lost 67,000, with only Charter showing a gain of any significance (56,000).

Among the phone companies, Verizon Fios dropped 302,000 and Frontier dropped 146,000, although AT&T U-verse/AT&T TV gained 42,000.

A battle played out among the virtual MVPDs last year, with Hulu + Live TV gaining a notable 800,000 subs and Fubo TV gaining nearly 232,000, while rivals AT&T TV Now and Sling TV lost 270,000 and 118,000, respectively.  

However, as a whole, the vMVPD sector’s growth slowed significantly last year, gaining a combined 640,000 subscribers, versus nearly 1.1 million in 2019.

The top pay-TV providers across platforms now account for about 81.3 million subscribers total.

That includes 43.9 million among the top seven cable-TV video subscribers, 21.8 million for the two main satellite TV providers, 7.9 million for the three big telephone companies, and 7.7 million for the top publicly reporting vMVPD paid services.

Other stats of note:

*Satellite TV services lost about 3.44 million subscribers combined, down slightly from 2019’s 3.7 million.

*The top seven cable companies lost about 1.92 video subscribers combined, up from 1.56 million in 2019.

*The top telephone companies lost about 405,000 video subscribers, down from 630,000 in 2019.

*Traditional pay-TV services (not including vMVPDs) lost about 5.77 million subscribers, down slightly from 2019’s 5.89 million loss.

*AT&T had a net loss of about 3.26 million subscribers across its four pay-TV services, on top of a combined loss of nearly 4.1 million in 2019. AT&T “Premium TV” services (not including the vMVPD AT&T TV Now) lost 15.3% of subscribers last year, compared to a 4.6% loss among all other traditional pay-TV services

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