CABLE COMPANIES ARE LOSING SUBSCRIBERS

The fourth-quarter earnings season has wrapped up for the top publicly-traded pay-TV operators in the U.S., and it’s time to break down the numbers. Fierce Video has put together an overview of how the top cable, satellite, and telco pay-TV operators performed.

Overall, the U.S. pay TV industry lost 1.3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter, according to UBS. The analyst firm said the total equals a 5.1% rate of annual decline, compared to 4.6% in third quarter and 4.8% in the fourth quarter of 2019. Excluding virtual MVPDs, the firm estimated traditional TV subscribers fell 7.9%, which is in line with the previous quarter.

Macro cord cutting trends aren’t likely to improve much through 2021 and it means a long-term decline in pay TV revenues.

“We expect trends will continue to soften in 2021 as price increases and industry pivot away from linear TV drives higher churn as pandemic-related tailwinds fade,” wrote UBS analyst John Hodulik in a research note.

According to a report from Digital TV Research, global pay-TV revenues will fall to $152 billion by 2025, down from a peak of $202 billion in 2016. The decline can be at least partly attributed to ongoing declines in the U.S. pay-TV industry. Digital TV Research said the U.S. will lose $23 billion in revenues between 2019 and 2025, and that after peaking at $105 billion in 2015, U.S. pay-TV revenues will drop to $56 billion in 2025.

Since the last time, we broke down how these U.S. operators compared, Charter has swung back to video subscriber losses after a couple of quarters of unexpected growth. However, with Charter managing to hold its residential subscriber base steady in 2020 and AT&T experiencing another year of massive losses, a change in the rankings could be on the horizon.

Note: AT&T’s totals include U-verse, DirecTV, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now; and Dish’s include Sling TV.

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