Cable and Dish Keep Dying: Providers Lost Over 5 Million Subscribers in 2020

Cable and Dish Keep Dying: Providers Lost Over 5 Million Subscribers in 2020

On the satellite side, the losses continued, as DirecTV lost over 3 million subscribers and Dish Network lost 408,000.

Leitchman Research Group has released its report on how many subscribers pay-TV providers lost in the year 2020, and it was a high number- although not that much higher than in 2019.

According to the totals, which were assembled from the public earnings reports released by the companies, the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. lost about 5,120,000 subscribers in 2020, after they lost 4,795,000 in 2019.

The numbers applied to around 95 percent of the overall TV market. At the same time, Leitchman said earlier in the week, the major companies gained about 5 million broadband subscribers.

Overall, the pay-TV universe had 81.3 million subscribers at the end of 2020, which includes 43.9 million for cable, 21.8 million for satellite, and 7.7 million for vMVPDs.

Satellite services lost the most subscribers, dropping more than 3.4 million, while the cable companies lost 1.9 million, and vMVPDs gained just over a million, as gains were blunted by price increases.

Meanwhile, AT&T, which recently sold and spun off its video business, lost more than 2.3 million customers across all of its video services, DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, AT&T TV, and the now-discontinued AT&T TV NOW.

“Net pay-TV losses of over 5 million subscribers in 2020 were slightly higher than in 2019, and more than in any previous year,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc, said in the release.  “Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 5.9% of subscribers in 2020, compared to 5.2% in 2019.”

Of the top seven cable providers, only two—Charter and Atlantic Broadband—added net subscribers in 2020. Charter gained 56,000 subscribers and Atlantic Broadband added 1,287. Comcast, meanwhile, lost 1.4 million subscribers over the course of the year, while Cox lost 215,000 and Altice lost 236,800. 

On the satellite side, the losses continued, as DirecTV lost over 3 million subscribers and Dish Network lost 408,000. Of the telecom companies that offer pay-TV service, Verizon lost 302,000 subscribers and Frontier lost 146,000, although AT&T U-Verse managed to eke out a gain of 42,000.

And in the vMVPD sector, Hulu + Live TV added 800,000 subscribers and Fubo TV gained 231,880, although Sling TV lost 118,000 and AT&T TV Now, which has since been discontinued, lost 270,000. 

YouTube TV was not included in the survey, since Google does not release exact statistics of subscribers for that service. The company said last fall that YouTube TV had 3 million subscribers to the service. 

Leichtman indicated that growth is slowing for the vMVPD sector, which gained 1,095,000 subscribers in 2019. Most of the major players in that market raised prices over the course of 2020, as programming costs increased. 

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.