DirecTV, Comcast lead another dismal year for pay TV sub losses: report

Comcast and DirecTV overwhelmingly led the pack in U.S. pay TV subscriber losses last year, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group.

The company estimates that DirecTV—which now encompasses DirecTV, U-verse and AT&T TV after being spun off by AT&T last year—dropped approximately 1.9 million subscribers in 2021. Combined with Dish Network’s 595,000 lost customers, the U.S. satellite TV industry saw its overall customer base decline by 2.5 million last year.

At the same time, Comcast lost 1.67 million pay TV customers in 2021, leading the top seven U.S. cable providers to a total loss of approximately 2.695 million in 2021. Charter lost the second most subscribers among cable operators with 367,000 total.

In all, traditional pay TV services including telcos like Verizon and Frontier had a net loss of about 5,585,000 subscribers in 2021 – compared to a net loss of about 5,785,000 in 2020.

“While the pay-TV industry continued to lose subscribers, net losses in 2021 were fairly similar to those in recent years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, in a statement.  “In 2021, the top pay-TV providers had a net loss of about 4.7 million subscribers, compared to a pro forma loss of about 4.9 million subscribers in 2020, and a loss of 4.1 million in 2019.”

Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV and Sling TV—which are the top publicly reporting virtual MVPDs in the U.S.—helped offset U.S. pay TV declines last year by adding a combined 893,927 subscribers, led by fuboTV with 581,927. Notably, all three vMVPDs were the only U.S. pay TV providers in the Leichtman report to exhibit any positive growth in 2021.

According to Leichtman, the top pay TV providers now account for about 76.1 million subscribers – 41.3 million for the top seven cable companies, 26.8 million for satellite and telco services combined, and 7.9 million for the top publicly reporting vMVPDs.