Deeper Dive—How fuboTV explains its growing vMVPD market share

FuboTV is still relatively small compared to its competitors. (FuboTV)

FuboTV was one of the few linear TV providers to add any subscribers during the first quarter and it’s helping the service grab a larger share of the virtual MVPD market.

According to fuboTV CEO David Gandler, his company had less than 3% share of the vMVPD market in 2019 but, as of the end of the first quarter of 2021, that figure is up to about 5.8%.

“We’ve been doing that very efficiently. Our brand positioning has been around sports. We like to say internally, come for the sports, stay for the entertainment,” he said during an Evercore investor conference. “That strategy has been working. We’ve been using sports as the hook.”

FuboTV does differentiate in the vMVPD market by offering sports in 4K, a multi-view feature for watching more than one sporting event simultaneously, and free-to-play predictive games. But fuboTV is hardly the only vMVPD that has touted its sports lineup and it’s missing major pieces like Sinclair’s Bally Sports RSNs just like competitors Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV.

Gandler admitted that it’s difficult to stand out among the 300 or so streaming services currently available. But he’s counting on SVOD fatigue continuing to kick in and driving more demand for aggregated video services like fuboTV and other vMVPDs.

“I believe the virtual MVPD market will remain extremely strong. I believe the virtual MVPD market will become the gateway to television. Aggregators have always succeeded throughout history and it’s just a more efficient and more effective viewing experience with better customization and personalization," he said.

Not everyone shares his optimism.

According to recent projections from S&P Global, the overall rate of subscriber decline 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.

Indeed, any gains made by vMVPDs during the first quarter were more than offset by the category’s overall losses. According to MoffettNathanson’s latest Cord Cutting Monitor, YouTube TV added 75,000 subscribers during the first quarter; higher than the 43,000 net adds reported by fuboTV but not nearly enough to make up for Hulu + Live TV’s 200,000 and Sling TV’s 100,000 net losses.

FuboTV is still relatively small compared to its competitors. It ended the first quarter with 590,430 subscribers, up 105% year over year but still trailing Philo, its nearest competitor that had 800,000 subscribers at last count.

But fuboTV’s unexpected growth last quarter led it to expand its original year-end guidance to 830,000-850,000 subscribers, which implies net additions of at least 282,000 in 2021. If it can continue to grow exponentially, there’s good reason to believe fuboTV will continue to claim more market share.