Major US pay-TV providers lose 1.5MN subs in 2017
Joseph O'Halloran
| 13 March 2018

The evidence is stacking up that 2017 was an annus horribilis for the US pay-TV industry, with a study from the Leichtman Research Group finding that the largest pay-TV providers in the US lost about 1.495 million net video subscribers in 2017, almost double that in 2016.

The top pay-TV providers account for 92.2 million subscribers, about 95%, with the top six cable companies having around 48.1 million video subscribers, satellite TV services 31.5 million subscribers, the top telephone companies 9.2 million subscribers, and the top Internet-delivered pay-TV services nearly 3.4 million subscribers.

The survey found that the top six cable companies lost about 660,000 video subscribers in 2017 compared with a loss of around 275,000 subscribers in 2016. This represents a cumulatively loss 1.4% of video subscribers compared with just 0.6% in 2016.

Satellite TV services lost about 1.55 million subscribers in 2017 - compared to a loss of around 40,000 subscribers in 2016. The stand out company, if the term can be used accurately in this case, was DIRECTV which haemorrhaged subscribers in 2017. The 554,000 losses compared with a gain of 1.228 million subscribers in the previous 12 months. In addition, DBS services cumulatively lost 4.7% of video subscribers in 2017 compared with a loss of 0.1% in 2016.

LRG's data showed that things were a bit brighter for the IPTV industry, where the top telephone providers lost about 885,000 video subscribers in 2017, compared with a loss of approximately 1.59 million in 2016. The top telcos cumulatively lost 8.7% of video subscribers, compared with a loss of 13.6% in 2016. In the sector, AT&T U-verse lost 624,000 subscribers in 2017, compared to a loss of 1.359 million subscribers in 2016.

Traditional pay-TV services, not including Internet-delivered services, lost around 3.095 million subscribers in 2017, compared with a loss of about 1.905 million in 2016. By way of a stark contrast, the leading publicly reporting Internet-delivered services added approximately 1.6 million subscribers in 2017, compared with 1.145 million net adds in 2016. Overall subscribers to the top Internet-delivered services increased by 90% in 2017.

"The pay-TV market saw net losses increase in 2017, and the continuation of a share shift from traditional services to newer Internet-delivered services," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. "Satellite TV services, DIRECTV and DISH TV, had more combined net losses in 2017 than in any previous year, yet these losses were offset by gains from their Internet-delivered flanker brands, DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV. Overall, the top pay-TV services lost 1.6% of subscribers in 2017 compared to a loss of 0.8% in 2016."