The pay-TV industry saw a significant decline in Q1, 2019. This in itself is nothing new as the legacy pay-TV sector is now routinely the subject of quarterly subscriber drops. However, in recent times, these declines have been offset to some degree by the gains seen by vMVPDs – most commonly referred to as live TV streaming services.
A new report by Strategy Analytics says that wasn't quite the case in the first quarter of this year. Yes, vMVPDs gained in the quarter overall, but those gains were less than in previous quarters, resulting in the overall pay-TV market (legacy and vMVPD) declining.
Focusing in on the vMVPD side and most of the blame seems to lie at the door of DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV due to the recent lack of subscriber growth for both services.
It has already been routinely highlighted that DIRECTV NOW is suffering massively in terms of subscriber losses this year. During the last quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, DIRECTV NOW lost close to 20-percent of its overall subscriber base.
DIRECTV NOW has said it expects this trend to continue throughout most of 2019 but also said this was somewhat intentional due to the brand undertaking a "customer cleanup" exercise.
DIRECTV NOW also recently raised the price of its plans, while simultaneously decreasing the number of channels each plan offered.
Sling TV's issue is not quite the same as although the service has not seen any overall losses in 2019 yet, its gains have been negligible. Resulting in a flat level of performance so far this year for the service owned by Dish Network. This is in stark contrast to previous years when Sling TV was routinely gaining new users each quarter and seeing a level of growth that allowed the service to retain the top live TV streaming sort quarter after quarter.
In spite of the top two live TV streaming services performing either badly or stagnant, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV have helped to ensure the overall pay-TV losses were not worse.
The latest data from Strategy Analytics further draws attention to this by pointing out the 450,000 subscribers Hulu with Live TV gained, and the more than 100,000 subscribers YouTube TV gained during the first quarter alone.
Taking all things into consideration, the report states that overall the vMVPDs added 553,000 subscribers, equating to a quarter-over-quarter increase of 7.4-percent.
For reference, the report states that prior to this quarter the vMVPDs were averaging 927,000 subscribers, highlighting the significant decline noted for the first quarter compared to previous ones.
Of course, this is all relative as although the vMVPD market has not gained to the same degree it was in previous quarters, it did still gain. That's far different to the legacy side of the industry which the report states lost 1.55 million subscribers during the same time-frame.
The combination of the continued losses within legacy pay-TV along with the slowed growth of vMVPDs resulted in 91.51 million pay-TV households in the U.S, overall.
This compares to the 93.76 million households recorded for the first quarter of 2018.