Total pay TV subscribers went up in 2019, PwC says

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PwC’s conclusions are based on an October 2019 survey of 2,016 U.S. residents, ages 18-59, with annual household incomes above $40,000. (Getty/FS-Stock)

Contrary to what stark video subscriber losses suggest about the state of the U.S. pay TV industry, PwC said that pay TV subscribers actually increased in 2019.

In a new report, the financial firm said total pay TV subscribers remained consistent at 68%, compared to 67% in 2018. That increase came after a 6% decline from 2017 to 2018.

PwC broke down the distribution of pay TV relationships by traditional pay TV subscribers, cord trimmers, cord cutters and cord nevers. While traditional pay TV subscribers fell from 40% to 39%, cord trimmers rose from 27% to 29% and cord cutters fell from 25% to 23%. Cord nevers rose from 8% to 9%.

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PwC’s conclusions are based on an October 2019 survey of 2,016 U.S. residents, ages 18-59, with annual household incomes above $40,000.

But the firm’s predictions seem somewhat contradicted by the amount of pay TV subscriber losses recorded over the past few years.

UBS predicted that the U.S. pay TV industry will lose another 6.2 million video subscribers in 2020, down slightly from the 6.4 million the analyst firm predicts will be lost in total this year. If that loss comes to bear it will represent a 6.7% rate of decline, ahead of 6.2% in 2019 and well ahead of 1.2% in 2018 when video subscriber losses totaled 1.2 million.

“We now expect industry losses to remain in the 6-7% per year range for the medium term, suggesting worsening trends in domestic core affiliate into next year,” wrote UBS analyst John Hodulik in a research report.

He said that improvement at AT&T – which lost more than one million traditional video subscribers during the third quarter – will likely be offset by worsening trends for cable providers and other MVPDs.