Cord cutting almost doubled in 2018, Leichtman Research says

As it stands now, the top pay TV providers account for 89.1 million subscribers. (Alyssa & Colin/Flickr)

Things got serious for pay TV providers in 2018 as the number of subscribers who decided to cut the cord nearly doubled, according to the Leichtman Research Group.

The firm’s findings show that the largest pay TV providers in the U.S.—representing about 95% of the market—lost about 2,875,000 net video subscribers in 2018, compared to a pro forma loss of about 1,510,000 subscribers in 2017.

The ballooning pay TV subscriber losses in 2018 can largely be pegged on DirecTV and Dish Network. Those companies combined lost 2,360,000 subscribers in 2018, up from approximately 1,550,000 subscribers lost in 2017.


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The top six cable providers—Comcast, Charter, Cox, Altice USA, Mediacom and Cable One—lost about 910,000 subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of about 680,000 subscribers in 2017.

RELATED: Top linear pay TV operators lost nearly 3.1M subscribers in 2017, Leichtman says

The top telecoms—Verizon Fios, AT&T U-verse and Frontier—bounced back and lost about 245,000 video subscribers in 2018, compared to a loss of about 885,000 in 2017. That improvement was due largely to U-verse adding 47,000 subscribers in 2018.

In the meantime, DirecTV Now and Sling TV added 640,000 subscribers in 2018, a healthy growth figure but far behind the 1.6 million net adds the two services combined for in 2017.

“The pay TV market saw net losses increase in 2018.  Overall, the top pay TV providers lost 3.1% of subscribers in 2018 compared to a loss of 1.6% in 2017,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, in a statement. “Since the industry’s peak in 1Q 2012, pay TV subscribers for the top providers have declined by about 6,000,000. This reflects a decline of about 10,000,000 subscribers for traditional services, offset by the addition of about 4,000,000 subscribers for the publicly reporting vMVPD services.”

As it stands now, the top pay TV providers account for 89.1 million subscribers: The top six cable companies have 47 million, the satellite TV services have 29.1 million, the top telephone companies have 9 million subscribers, and the top vMVPDs have 4 million.

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