In the first comprehensive official tally of customer first-quarter growth and attrition for the pay-TV industry, Leichtman Research Group (LRG) estimates that the top 11 operators lost more than 758,000 video customers in the first quarter.
The attrition was offset by estimated gains of 175,000 customers each by virtual MVPD platforms DirecTV Now and Sling TV, LRG added. Neither of these platform operators, AT&T and Dish Network respectively, broke out individual metrics for these platforms in their quarterly earnings reports.
The total loss of just under 409,000 customers, adjusted with the vMVPD estimates, compares to a net gain in the first quarter of last year. The operators included in LRG’s tally account for 95% of all pay-TV customers. The top six operators lost around 115,000 subs in the first quarter compared to a gain of 50,000 for the same period last year.
"The pay-TV market lost about 410,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2017. This marked the first time that the industry has ever had net subscriber losses in the first quarter of a year," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. "The decline in subscribers should not be interpreted as solely driven by a sudden increase in consumers disconnecting services. The net losses are also a function of a decrease in new connects, partially due to some providers less aggressively pursuing lower value customers than in the past."
Within Leichtman’s tally, the research company estimates that privately held cable operator Cox Communications lost 15,000 video subs in the first quarter. Another estimate provided to FierceCable by IDC projects that loss at only around 4,000.
Meanwhile, Dish Network reported an overall loss of 143,000 customers for the first quarter. Removing Sling TV from the equation, LRG projects that the linear Dish satellite platform lost 318,000 customers during the period.