Cord Cutting Picked Up Steam In 2018, Major TV Providers Feeling The Pressure

The major Pay-TV providers in the U.S. lost close to three million subscribers during 2018.

These are the latest findings by Leichtman Research Group and tally well with other reports that have been coming through over the last couple of weeks.

Overall, the major finding was the loss of 2,875,000 net video subscribers during last year and how this compares to a loss of almost half that number (1,510,000) in 2017. Suggesting almost double the amount of people moved away from traditional TV options in 2018 in favor of alternative solutions - including streaming options.

The data seems to point to this being particularly bad news for the likes of AT&T and DISH Network who shared the biggest losses overall. For example, AT&T’s DIRECTV lost 1,236,000 subscribers in 2018 and this was again almost double the losses incurred in 2017 - 554,000 subscribers. Likewise, DISH TV saw yearly subscriber losses in the region of 1,125,000.

The remainder of the losses came down to the ‘the top six’ cable companies who collectively accounted for a drop of 910,465 subscribers during the year.

Of course, both AT&T and DISH Network offer a streaming alternative in the form of DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV, respectively. While it might be expected that a move from the more traditional options would simply see a move towards the streaming options offered by the same companies, the data did not support that in 2018.

DIRECTV NOW only picked up 205,000 subscribers and Sling TV only 436,000.

As a result, the findings show DIRECTV and DISH TV lost 2,361,000 overall, while their streaming counterparts collectively only picked up 641,000.

Both AT&T and DISH Network had already announced their fourth-quarter and year-end totals, stating a similar pattern.

These results further highlight how the grip on TV is changing in light of increased competition among streaming companies. For example, recent reports have started to routinely come through suggesting both Hulu and YouTube were two of the big winners in this space in 2018.

Of the two, Hulu is largely being credited as the ultimate winner due to the numbers suggesting its with Live TV solution is now closing in on two million subscribers. A number that's now assumed to have put Hulu ahead of DIRECTV NOW in the streaming race, and second only to Sling TV.

YouTube TV on the other hand, had seen a much slower nationwide expansion during last year although that does not seemed to have impacted so much on its ability to attract customers with the service now understood to have surpassed the one million subscriber count within the last few months.

When accounted for together, these numbers point to Hulu and YouTube’s jointly hovering around the three million marker, compared to DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV’s combined total of four million.

With the losses detailed in the latest findings, it would seem viewers in the U.S. are not only moving away from traditional TV consumption in general, but also towards, and at a fairly rapid rate, the newer players in the field.

That was at least the case in 2018 as 2019 still has everything to play considering the top six cable companies started the year with 47 million subscribers between them, and the top satellite services (DIRECTV and DISH) with 29 million.

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About the Author

John Anon

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]
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