The quarterly numbers from Leichtman Research Group, Inc. that measure how much cord-cutting has taken place are out, and they show that the nation’s top pay-TV providers lost 120,000 net video subscribers in the third quarter. It’s a large number, but much smaller than the figures during the first half of 2020, and even in the era prior to the pandemic, which indicates that the massive cord-cutting has begun to slow.
The firm had placed the losses at 2 million in the first quarter of the year, and at 1.57 million in the second quarter. The figures are based on earnings releases from the companies and cover companies that account for about 95 percent of the pay-TV universe in the U.S.
After the third quarter, the current totals are 82.6 million pay-TV subscribers among the largest firms, of which 44.3 million are for cable, 22.6 million subscribers are for satellite, 8 million are telephone companies, and 7.7 million are (vMVPD) pay-TV services. All of those categories lost fewer subscribers in the third quarter of this year than they did in the pre-pandemic third quarter in 2019, with vMVPD actually gaining.
“With the return of live sports in 3Q 2020, Internet-delivered vMVPDs had more net additions than in any previous quarter, and pay-TV overall had fewer net losses than in any quarter since 1Q 2018,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc., said in the release.
Of the top cable companies, Comcast lost the most subscribers in the third quarter, dropping 273,000, while DirecTV, with a drop of 690,000, lost the most of any company overall. Two cable companies, Charter and Atlantic Broadband, gained subscribers in the quarter, while all of the others besides Comcast kept their losses in the five figures.
On the vMVPD side, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and Fubo TV all gained subscribers, while AT&T TV Now lost 37,000 (YouTube TV is not included in the numbers, as Google does not release precise quarterly figures.) Overall, the vMVPD sector gained over a million subscribers in the third quarter, despite several of the firms raising prices, although the news of Hulu+ Live TV’s price hike didn’t come until this week, long after the third quarter was over.
“It is more important than ever before to recognize vMVPDs as a key segment of the live pay-TV industry. Hulu + Live TV is now the fifth largest pay-TV service in the U.S., and YouTube TV (which is not part of LRG’s tracking data because it does not formally report quarterly results) now has over three million subscribers, including one million net additions thus far in 2020,” Leitchman added.
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.