The number of Pay-TV subscribers in the US dropped to 93.79 million (rounded) in the second quarter of 2018, according to the latest data from Strategy Analytics. However, the picture is a lot more complicated than this as the Q2, 2018 figure was down compared to Q1, 2018, but up when compared to Q2, 2017 – showing a year-over-year increase of 0.5-percent. One of the additional factors that complicates the picture are virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (vMVPDs). These are often thought of as competition to traditional Pay-TV options, including cable and satellite, but still fall under the same main umbrella. Therefore, their inclusion in the figures seems to be what has bolstered the overall number to reflect the YoY change.
For example, in the second quarter alone, vMVPDs saw net adds in the region of 868,000. Additions which represent a year-over-year increase of 119-percent, and total 6.74 (rounded) million subscribers – up from 5.87 million in Q1, 2018 and 3.07 (rounded) million in Q2, 2017. Breaking the vMVPD numbers down further and it would seem Hulu TV and YouTube TV are showing the biggest percentage gains with year-over-year changes of 478.8-percent and 368.6-percent, respectively. Although as both of these services are new services by comparison, it would be expected yearly percentage changes would be inflated. What is likely to be of more importance is the gains had by DIRECTV NOW. As while the data suggests AT&T's service still trails behind DISH Network's Sling TV option in terms of the number of subscribers, the gap is closing rapidly. Strategy Analytics reckons Sling TV now has 2.34 million subscribers and DIRECT NOW has 1.81 (rounded) million subscribers, and this can be compared to the year before when Sling TV had 1.86 (rounded) million subscribers and DIRECTV NOW had less than half a million. On this point, Strategy Analytics' Michael Goodman, suggests if DIRECTV NOW is able to maintain the same momentum then it will be on track to "overtake Sling TV as the largest vMVPD in early 2019."
When removing vMVPDs from the equation the traditional (or "legacy" as Strategy Analytics references) Pay-TV landscape becomes clearer. With the data suggesting by the end of the second quarter there were 87.05 (rounded) million legacy subscribers. This is down almost one million quarter-over-quarter from 88.02 (rounded) million in Q1, 2018 and down from 90.26 (rounded) million in Q2, 2017 – representing a year-over-year decline of 3.6-percent. The quarter-over-quarter decline of almost one million is what cancelled out the big vMVPD growth resulting in the overall Pay-TV subscriber quarter-over-quarter decline to 93.79 million. Of the legacy options, it would seem Satellite has been hit the hardest lately with a year-over-year decline of 5.2-percent.