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vMVPD growth lessens blow of pay TV losses for US operators

The total number of subscribers to the largest US pay TV providers was down by 120,000 for the quarter.

According to new figures from Leichtman Research Group, the largest pay TV providers in the US – representing about 95% of the market – lost just over 100,000 subscribers in Q3, though this is a marked improvement on the previous year. Those same providers lost 945,000 subs in Q3 2019, indicating that positive progress is being made in curbing subscriber drop outs.

In total, the top pay TV providers in the country account for about 82.6 million subscribers. The top seven cable companies have 44.3 million video subscribers, satellite TV services have about 22.6 million subscribers, the top telephone companies have 8 million subscribers, and the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered (vMVPD) pay-TV services ended the quarter with 7.7 million subscribers.

Continuing a losing trend, satellite services continued to top the losses, shedding about 775,000 subscribers in Q3 2020 – compared to a loss of about 1,14 million subscribers in Q3 2019.

The year-over-year drop for cable companies was roughly the same – 375,000 vs 410,000 in 2019 and 2020 respectively – while telephone providers only lost about 5,000 subscribers between them (compared to 210,000 in Q3 2019).

vMVPD services like Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV and AT&T TV NOW prop up the sector, with such services gaining just over a million subscribers. This is the continuation of a positive trend, with the same players adding 815,000 in Q3 2019.

Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said: “With the return of live sports in 3Q 2020, Internet-delivered vMVPDs had more net additions than in any previous quarter, and pay-TV overall had fewer net losses than in any quarter since Q1 2018.

“It is more important than ever before to recognize vMVPDs as a key segment of the live pay-TV industry. Hulu + Live TV is now the fifth largest pay-TV service in the U.S., and YouTube TV (which is not part of LRG’s tracking data because it does not formally report quarterly results) now has over three million subscribers, including one million net additions thus far in 2020.”