As the companies that own the top cable and satellite services announced their earnings over the course of the last month, it appeared that most of them had lost subscribers in the quarter, albeit not as many as they did during the darkest days of the pandemic in the first half of the year.
Now, we have an idea of exactly how many subscribers were lost in July, August and September.
According to the latest informitv Multiscreen Index, as cited by Advanced Television, the top ten providers of pay TV services in the United States lost 862,800 subscribers in the third quarter. Eight of the ten lost subscribers in the quarter.
“The rate of television subscriber decline in the United States has reduced since the first quarter of 2020 when the top 10 services had combined losses of 2.33 million,” Dr. William Cooper, the editor of the informitv Multiscreen Index, said in a press statement. “There is still a secular decline in this mature market, but it is important to remember that six out of ten television homes in the United States still subscribe to one of these services.”
According to the report, which cited publicly released data, Comcast lost 253,000 cable subscribers, while AT&T lost 627,000, across DirecTV and its other pay TV services. Verizon lost 61,000 Fios subscribers in the quarter, Altice USA dropped 67,800, and Frontier lost 42,000.
The only providers that gained subscribers in the quarter were Charter, which added 53,000, and Sling TV, which gained more than 200,000, although the main service of Sling’s parent company, Dish Network, lost subscribers in the quarter.
However, many of those companies, including Comcast, have gained home Internet subscribers as they have lost traditional cable customers. There are signs that some of the companies that space are beginning to make their peace with the reality of cord-cutting.
The top ten services now have 72.28 million TV subscribers, bringing their total down to just 60 percent of television homes. The index, however, omits a few pay TV providers, including the vMVPD providers YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and Fubo TV, as well as the cable firm Cox Communications, which does not report public subscriber numbers.
Another firm, the Leichtman Research Group, Inc., releases a quarterly report listing how many subscribers most of the pay TV firms have lost. That report is likely waiting for Disney to report earnings later this week, as that company owns Hulu and Hulu + Live TV. Those reports, the first two quarters of 2020, listed the companies as losing around 2 million subscribers in the first quarter and 1.57 million subscribers in the second.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to 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.