The nation’s leading cable TV providers experienced the lowest number of annual video subscriber losses since 2006 last year, the year telcos first introduced video services, according to the latest from LRG (Leichtman Research Group). The nation’s six largest cable companies lost some 280,000 video subscribers in 2016, a far cry from losses of around 410,000 in 2015 and 1.2 million in 2014.
Meanwhile, the telco pay-TV subscriber base decreased. Subscriber losses among the largest U.S. telco video services spiked in 2016, totaling 1.55 million. That compares to losses of about 120,000 in 2015 and a gain of about 1.065 million in 2014, LRG highlights.
AT&T’s U-verse lost about 1.359 million subscribers last year as compared to some 300,000 in 2015. LRG attributed the surge to AT&T phasing out U-verse in favor its higher margin DirecTV brand video services.
Not surprisingly, therefore, satellite TV services’ collective subscriber base increased in 2016 by 190,000 as compared to a loss of about 450,000 in 2015, according to LRG. In addition, OTT Internet-delivered video service subscribers to DirecTVNow and Sling TV rose some 845,000. That compares to net adds of 535,000 in 2015, according to LRG.
Pay-TV Subscriber Base
All told, traditional cable, satellite and telco pay-TV services (not counting OTT offerings) lost a net of about 1.64 million video subscribers last year as compared to a loss of some 980,000 in 2015.
Conditions took a slight turn for the better in 4Q 2016, but not for traditional pay-TV services. The collective cable, satellite and telco video subscriber base rose some 140,000 on a net basis in 4Q, in line with 2015’s net gain of 145,000. Traditional pay-TV service subscribers dropped some 330,000, however. That compares to a small gain of around 1,000 in 2015.
“The pay-TV market has seen significant change in the past two years, with the introduction of Internet-delivered services, and share shifts among traditional providers that are driven as much by providers’ decisions as by changes in consumer demand,” commented LRG president and principal analyst Bruce Leichtman.
“When analyzing the pay-TV market, it is now essential to include Internet-delivered services as part of the industry, just as it was important to include satellite and Telco services when those new forms of delivery were introduced.”
Collectively, the video subscriber base for the top U.S. pay-TV providers totaled 93.6 million as of year-end 2016. The top six cable companies accounted for more than 48.6 million (51.9%).
Comcast led the pack with 22.508 million subscribers, up a net 161,000. Charter lost 187,000 to end the year with a video subscriber base of 17.236 million. Altice ran a distant third with a year-end 2016 video subscriber base of 3.469 million, down 111,000 from 2015.
The top U.S. satellite TV providers’ total subscriber base totaled about 33.5 million, a 35.8% market share. DirecTV’s year-end 2016 subscriber base totaled 21.012 million, up 1.228 million year-to-year. Dish-DBS’ subscriber base totaled 12.491 million, down 1.037 million.
Video subscriber numbers for telco pay-TV providers totaled 10.1 million, for a 10.7% market share. Verizon FiOS added a net 59,000 net video subscribers in 2016, bringing its total video subscriber base to 1.18 million. AT&T ranked second, finishing the year with 4.281 million, while Frontier lost 255,000 video subscribers for a year-end total of 1.125 million.