Major pay-TV providers lost about 650,000 subscribers in this year’s third quarter, according to Leichtman Research Group.
That is down significantly from the researcher’s estimated loss of 1.23 million in this year’s second quarter, but up significantly from Q3 2020’s estimated 90,000 subscriber losses.
“While Pay-TV net losses in the quarter increased from last year’s third quarter, annual net losses were relatively similar to a year ago,” explained the firm’s President and Principal Analyst, Bruce Leichtman. “Over the past year, top pay-TV providers had a net loss of about 5,100,000 subscribers, compared to a loss of about 4,820,000 over the prior year.”
Leichtman has been tracking the broadband, media and entertainment industries in the U.S. since 2002. Its pay-TV subscriber numbers cover the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S., representing about 93% of the market.
A Wells Fargo analyst, Steven Cahall, recently estimated that total U.S. pay-TV subcribers declined by just 105,000 between this year’s second and third quarters. Cahall, who initiated coverage of cable distributors this past March (he already covered cable programmers), projected that pay-TV subs for full-year 2021 will be down 4.8% to 85.6 million subscribers — an improvement of 10 basis points over last year’s decline. As of May, Cahall had been projecting 2021 pay-TV losses at 6%, up from 5.1% in 2020.
According to Leichtman, the top pay-TV providers accounted for about 77 million subscribers as of Q3 (versus about 77.6 million in Q2 2021).
The top seven cable companies had 42.6 million video subscribers, other traditional pay-TV services had about 28.2 million, and the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered or virtual multichannel video providers (vMVPDs) had about 6.8 million.
Within the Q3 estimated total, cable providers saw a net loss of about 700,500 video subscribers. That was up significantly from a loss of about 380,000 in Q3 2020, and up somewhat from Q2 2021’s loss of nearly 588,000.
Other traditional pay-TV services had a net loss of about 635,000 subscribers in Q3 — down from a loss of about 780,000 in the year-ago Q3 and a loss of 698,000 in Q2 2021.
Top publicly reporting vMVPDs added about 680,000 subscribers in Q3 — down from a gain of about 1,070,000 subscribers in Q3 2020, but up from a gain of 56,000 in Q2 2021.
Q3’s biggest loser was AT&T Premium TV services, which include DirecTV, U-verse and AT&T TV, and were recently spun off into a joint venture with TPG. They collectively lost an estimated 412,000 subscribers.
Comcast cable saw the second heaviest losses: 407,000.
The gains by the vMVPDs included 300,000 for Hulu + Live TV (to total 4 million subscriptions); nearly 263,000 for Fubo TV (to total nearly 945,000); and 117,000 for Sling TV (to total 2.56 million).