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Traditional Pay TV Operators Lost Over 5M Customers in 2019, Leichtman Says

(Image credit: GoodLifeStudio/Getty Images)

The top 12 U.S. cable, satellite and telco operators in the TV video business lost more than 5 million linear subscribers in 2019, according the latest quarterly pay TV report from Leichtman Research Group (LRG). 

The loss is only around 4.9 million users if virtual pay TV services are factored in—but LRG only counts Dish Network’s Sling TV, AT&T TV Now and Hulu + Live TV. (In January, Alphabet reported over 2 million users for its vMVPD, YouTube TV. But LRG founder and lead analyst Bruce Leichtman said he didn't include it in his report because Alphabet didn't provide any supporting data for the figure.)

LRG said Hulu added 1.5 million users in 2019. 

While virtually all major traditional pay TV providers experienced cord cutting, AT&T drove the aggregate record figure, losing 4.12 million users across DirecTV satellite, U-verse IPTV and AT&T TV Now vMVPD platforms. DirecTV, which had around 21 million subscribers when AT&T bought the company for around $50 billion in 2015, has a base of just over 16 million users now. 

Dish Network’s linear satellite TV service also continued to erode, losing 511,000 customers. 

Comcast, which used to tout the stickiness of its X1 video platform as a hedge against the corrosive forces of over-the-top distribution, saw its full-year cord cutting numbers growth from 120,000 in 2018 to 732 million last year. 

Of course, the entire cord cutting phenomenon exploded in the U.S. last year, nearly quadrupling the 1.325 million users reported lost by LRG in 2018. 

(Image credit: Leichtman Research Group)