Although there won’t likely be an official subscriber growth update for Google’s YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV, one analyst estimates both virtual MVPDs had strong fourth quarters.
Michael Nathanson, media analyst for MoffettNathanson, said the two leading streaming TV services excelled in another terrible quarter for traditional MVPD subscriber losses.
“Although we do not yet have an accurate count of how virtual MVPDs performed in the quarter, industry contacts suggest that both Hulu Live and YouTube TV have crushed it,” wrote Nathanson in a research note.
The only vMVPD that has reported subscriber figures for the fourth quarter is AT&T TV Now, which lost 219,000 subscribers. Still, MoffettNathanson expects vMVPD growth to lower the rate of total video subscriber declines to 3.5% for 2019. That’s the good news. The bad news is that traditional MVPD subscribers are estimated to be down by 6.8% during the quarter.
With AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon all having reported earnings for the fourth quarter, MoffettNathanson said the aggregate losses totaled nearly 1.5 million, which was 300,000 worse than expected and 700,000 worse than the year-ago quarter.
Once again, the bulk of traditional video subscriber losses can be attributed to AT&T and its free-falling satellite business, DirecTV. The company said it lost 945,000 premium video subscribers from its DirecTV and U-verse businesses.
However, Comcast – which reported a net loss of 149,000 video subscribers in the fourth quarter, bringing its full-year total video losses to 733,000 – warned that 2020 could be worse. Michael Cavanagh, chief financial officer at Comcast, warned that cord-cutting trends and rate increases could accelerate video subscriber losses for the cable company.
MoffettNathanson said that consensus 2020 video subscriber losses for Comcast now exceed 1 million, which would equal a 5% rate of decline or worse.