Led by Comcast’s impressive growth of 161,000 pay-TV subscribers, cable had its best year for video subscriber growth since 2006, collectively losing only 278,000 customers.
All told, according to Leitchtman Research Group (LRG), the leading pay-TV companies, which account for 95% of U.S. MVPD subs, lost about 795,000 video customers in 2016. They lost only 445,000 in 2015.
The satellite TV sector grew by 191,000 subs, according to LRG, with AT&T aggressively shifting its pay-TV base away from the telco-based U-verse platform and onto DirecTV, which gained 1.228 million customers in 2016.
But Dish Network, which continues to fight an endless series of carriage and retrans battles, lost 1.037 million customers.
Meanwhile, telcos lost 1.555 million video customers, with the rapid recession of U-verse and Frontier Communications (down 255,000 users) offsetting narrowed growth by Verizon’s FiOS platform (59,000).
Virtual MVPD platforms undoubtedly siphoned away subscribers from traditional services, but added 845,000 users to the overall tally, LRG said. The research group estimated that Dish’s Sling TV service grew by 645,000 users last year and now has around 1.180 million subscribers. AT&T reported that DirecTV Now signed up 200,000 users from its Nov. 30 launch through Dec. 31.
Notably, traditional pay-TV services lost about 1,640,000 subscribers in 2016, compared to a loss of about 980,000 in 2015
But perhaps the most interesting story was in cable, where almost every company continued to lose pay-TV customers, save for Comcast, which has made major investments in its advanced X1 video platform.
Comcast has experienced markedly reduced video churn for the last 10 quarters with X1 now deployed in about 50% of its footprint.