DirecTV, Comcast account for lion’s share of over 5M pay TV sub losses in 2020

Comcast
Leichtman estimates that U.S. cable providers lost approximately 1.9 million subscribers in 2020 as small gains by Charter and Atlantic Broadband did little to offset across the board declines including both Altice USA and Cox losing more than 200,000 subscribers. (Comcast)

The top U.S. pay TV providers – across cable, telco, satellite and streaming – collectively lost more than 5 million subscribers in 2020, and Comcast and DirecTV led the way.

According to new data from Leichtman Research Group, the top providers lost lost about 5,120,000 net video subscribers in 2020, compared to a pro forma net loss of about 4,795,000 in 2019. DirecTV lost 3.03 million and Comcast lost 1.4 million to make up the vast majority.

The top pay TV providers now account for about 81.3 million subscribers – with the top seven cable companies having 43.9 million video subscribers, satellite TV services having about 21.8 million subscribers, the top telephone companies having 7.9 million subscribers, and the top publicly reporting vMVPDs having 7.7 million subscribers. Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said U.S. pay TV providers overall lost 5.9% of subscribers in 2020, compared to 5.2% in 2019.

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The firm estimates that U.S. cable providers lost approximately 1.9 million subscribers in 2020 as small gains by Charter and Atlantic Broadband did little to offset across the board declines including both Altice USA and Cox losing more than 200,000 subscribers.

The U.S. satellite TV industry lost approximately 3.44 million subscribers with Dish Network contributing 408,000 losses to DirecTV’s dismal year.

U.S. telcos lost 406,000 subscribers together as AT&T TV/U-verse gains of 42,000 were outmatched by losses of 302,000 for Verizon Fios and 146,000 for Frontier.

According to Leichtman, the U.S. vMVPD industry was the only pay TV segment to record growth in 2020, adding a net 643,880 subscribers. The firm didn’t include YouTube TV in its estimates – likely due to the inconsistency of subscriber disclosures from Google – but noted that Hulu + Live TV added 800,000 and fuboTV added 231,880 subscribers in 2020, more than enough to offset declines for Sling TV and AT&T TV Now.