The top 6 cable, satellite and telco pay TV operators in the first quarter of 2021: Ranking Comcast, DirecTV, Charter and more

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Altice USA, AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast, Dish Network and Verizon combined to lose approximately 1.6 million pay TV customers across both residential and business subscriber bases in Q1. (Getty/monsitj)

The first-quarter earnings season has wrapped up for the top publicly-traded pay TV operators in the U.S., and it's time to break down the numbers. FierceVideo has put together an overview of how the top cable, satellite and telco pay TV operators performed on subscriber growth.

Altice USA, AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast, Dish Network and Verizon combined to lose approximately 1.6 million pay TV customers across both residential and business subscriber bases. It’s better than the combined total from the same quarter of 2020. However, any improvements that AT&T made across DirecTV, U-verse and AT&T TV were largely offset by increased year-over-year losses for all the other top operators.

Despite the overall improvement during the first quarter, Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall still expects 2021 to be a bloodbath for traditional pay TV providers. He estimated that the full-year rate of decline will hit 6%.

“The outlook for pay TV sub declines is as cloudy as ever. We think Q1 trends were modestly better than 4Q20 and 2020 primarily due to less bad satellite losses. Yet, the biggest linear MVPDs are flagging elevated churn while vMVPD subs fell slightly sequentially,” he said in a report.

S&P Global also painted a similarly grim picture of 2021. According to recent projections from the analyst firm, the overall rate of subscriber declines for U.S. pay TV operators will hit 4.5% in 2021 and 6% in 2022. The company is predicting growth among vMVPDs will slow as the total legacy pay TV market (including cable, satellite and telco) swells to a 10.3% annual rate of subscriber declines in 2022.

The top 6 cable, satellite and telco pay TV operators in the first quarter of 2021: Ranking Comcast, DirecTV, Charter and more