Pay TV lost 1.2M users in Q3, Kagan says

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The numbers do not account for the emerging virtual MVPD market, which is adding customers at a fast rate but doing little to impact the bottom lines of operators.

Research company Kagan said today that linear pay TV services in the U.S. lost 1.2 million customers in the third quarter, a tally that blows the doors off of previous industry estimates and seems to come on the weary backs of smaller cable companies. 

Kagan, a unit within research company S&L Market Intelligence, has perhaps the most compressive quarterly customer gains/losses in the pay TV industry. Leichtman Research Group released figures yesterday showing the top 10 pay TV operators lost 943,230 across their 11 linear video services. 

Leichtman’s tally includes all the large companies and covers 95% of the U.S. market. Kagan digs into the hundreds of smaller pay TV operators, including the more than 800 NCTC-repped small cable companies. The numbers do not account for the emerging virtual MVPD market, which is adding customers at a fast rate but doing little to impact the bottom lines of operators. 

RELATED: Sling TV added 240K subscribers in Q3, Leichtman estimates

Satellite operators DirecTV and Dish experienced the biggest losses, with Kagan estimating the total satellite TV customer loss to be around 618,000 users in the third quarter—a bit higher than the 475,000 estimated by Leichtman. (Dish doesn’t break out its linear satellite losses, leaving everyone to kind of guess.)

Kagan also estimates that the cable sector lost 367,000 video customers in the quarter.

Leichtman said the six cable operators with the highest pay TV subcriber bases, most of them publicly traded, lost about 290,000 video customers in the quarter. Doing the math, the companhy estimates that smaller operators collectively lost around 80,000 subs during the three-month period.

Kagan also said that the pay TV industry has lost 2.9 million customers so far this year, bringing the total U.S. base down to 91.7 million users. Cable operators have lost 801,000 video users since the third quarter began, Kagan added. 

UPDATE: This story was clarified from an earlier version, which misinterpreted Kagan's full-year estimate for cable customer losses for a third-quarter tally. 

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