After an impressive third quarter, virtual MVPDs crashed back down to earth during the fourth quarter with some swinging back to subscriber losses.
Media analyst firm MoffettNathanson estimated that vMVPDs – including YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV – added 500,000 subscribers combined in the previous quarter after totaling 1.5 million in the third quarter. The firm now estimates there are just fewer than 12 million vMVPD subscribers in the U.S.
“Whether the cumulative number of vMVPD subscribers is viewed as impressive or disappointing is a matter of some debate,” wrote Craig Moffett in a research note. “Yes, it is a sizable number. But it is certainly far short of what was expected of the category in its infancy in 2015 and 2016.”
In 2020, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV all raised the price of their entry-level packages and in January, Sling TV raised its monthly rate by $5 for new subscribers. Moffett said pricing increases for vMVPDs certainly have not helped but that it may come down to difficulty in competing with all the AVOD/SVOD options available in the market.
“For most customers, the answer is no to replace the existing bundle of networks at a somewhat lower price, but instead to blow up the bundle entirely and replace it with SVOD and AVOD subscriptions that are by almost any measure a better solution,” he wrote.
Despite a slowdown in overall growth, the fourth quarter was not a total disaster for vMVPDs; some of them still managed significant growth, according to estimates from MoffettNathanson. Here’s how the major U.S. vMVPDs stacked up at the end of 2020.