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Pandemic continues to impact pay TV in US, as top operators lose over 1.5 million customers

Compounding a pre-existing trend towards cord-cutting with a devastated financial environment, pay TV providers in the US lost more than 1.5 million customers in Q2.

According to a Leichtman Research Group study, the largest pay TV operators in the country lost about 1.57 million net video subscribers in Q2. This represents an increase of 1.33 million lost in Q2 2019, but down from 2.07 million in Q2 2020 when the pandemic was first causing households to reevaluate their financial outgoings.

In total, the top pay TV operators – representing 95% of the total US market – have 82.4 million subscribers. The top seven cable companies have 44.7 million video subscribers, making it the leading form of pay TV operation, followed by satellite with 23.3 million subscribers.

Satellite TV services made up the majority of losses at 885,000 up year-over-year from Q2 2019 losses of about 860,000 subscribers. The top seven cable companies meanwhile lost about 500,000 video subscribers in Q2 up from 455,000 subscribers in the same period of 2019.

Comcast was the biggest cable loser, shedding 478,000 customers, while AT&T-owned DirecTV continued its downward spiral, losing 846,000 satellite customers.

Now at 8 million subscribers, the top telephone providers lost 160,000 video customers, while. In Q2 2019, this segment only lost 95,000 subscribers

While the market has been going downwards for some time, the one bright spark typically has been vMVPD services – however this segment has not been immune from the unfavourable economic climate. Services like Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and AT&T TV NOW lost about 25,000 subscribers in the quarter  – compared to about 80,000 net adds in Q2 2019

Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said: “This quarter marked the sixth consecutive quarter with over one million pay TV net losses; still these losses were about a half million fewer than in Q1 2020. The pay TV industry as a whole continues to rapidly lose subscribers. However, the wide disparity in performance among top providers in the quarter demonstrates the significance of individual corporate strategies.”