Top linear pay TV operators lost nearly 3.1M subscribers in 2017, Leichtman says

Cord cutting was deep and painful for every sector of the traditional side of the business. (iStock/zimmytws)

The top 11 pay TV operators collectively lost nearly 3.1 million video subscribers in 2017, according to Leichtman Research Group’s latest quarterly report

The pain was partly offset by gains of nearly 1.6 million by virtual pay TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now. But the cord cutting was deep and painful for every sector of the far more profitable traditional side of the business. 

Satellite TV platforms Dish Network and DirecTV lost 1.55 million subscribers compared to a loss of just 40,000 in 2016.

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The top six cable operators, which had lost just 275,000 video customers in 2016, reported losses of 660,000 last year. The only improvement? The top telco platforms AT&T U-verse, Verizon Fios and Frontier lost 883,000 video customers—compared to a loss of nearly 1.6 million in 2016. 

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Even with gains made by the two satellite-owned vMVPDs, the pay TV ecosystem shrunk by 1.6% last year, double the shrinkage from a year prior.

Leichtman is essentially crunching readily available data from earnings reports. With Dish actually disclosing subscriber information on Sling TV for the first time during its recent fourth-quarter report, there are only a few interesting estimates to note.

For one, the research company says DirecTV Now added 888,000 customers in 2017. Operator AT&T said that the platform attracted around 200,000 subscribers in December 2016, its first month of existence. Doing the math, that puts the vMVPD at around 1.1 million users as of the end of 2017. 

Leichtman also estimated that privately held Cox Communications lost 90,000 pay TV users in 2017. The research company has yet to respond to Fierce’s inquiry in its methodology.