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Cord Cutting Markedly Improved in Q4 Thanks to Strong Hulu + Live TV Customer Growth

Cord Cutting - Q4 2020 vs. Q4 2021
(Image credit: Championship Research)

Eight of the biggest, most publicly visible pay TV operators lost a combined 366,000 video subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2021, a marked improvement over the 600,000 these organizations shed in Q4 2020. 

More than half (five) of the operators Next TV looked at experienced improved video customer growth in the final three months of 2021. Hulu + Live TV showed the biggest improvement, moving from a loss of 100,000 customers in the fourth quarter of 2020 to a gain of 300,000 subscribers in Q4 2021. 

Our analysis looked only at publicly traded pay TV companies that cleanly break out quarterly video customer growth. That means the DirecTV and the rest of AT&T's pay TV assets -- which had been the biggest drivers of traditional video bundle subscriber loss over the past few years -- aren't included in our tally. 

Now spun off from AT&T as in a joint venture with private equity firm TPG, DirecTV's numbers for satellite- and IP-delivered services are no longer publicly accessible. However, renewed focus on DirecTV merchandising by the spinoff's managers suggest its platforms didn't lose over 3 million subscribers in 2021, as they did in 2020. 

Also excluded from the summary was what might be the biggest virtual MVPD, YouTube TV, with Google only occasionally breaking out quarterly subscriber metrics for this specific pay service. With Google making no price increases on its vMVPD service in 2021, it's doubtful that YouTube TV's subscriber metrics experienced major degradation in the fourth quarter. 

Indeed, the increasingly margin-challenged business of bundling licensed linear networks continues to shift toward IP-based distribution, with only Hulu and fuboTV reporting customer growth in Q4 2021. 

But the notion that the linear pay TV bundle is facing immediate collapse seems unfounded, at least based on this slicing of the lentil. 

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!