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Multichannel subscriptions plunge in 2019 amid shifting operator focus, viewing priorities

The losses were by far the industry's largest calendar-year drop, both in absolute and relative terms.

Monterey, CA, Mar. 11 2020 — The decline in U.S. multichannel subscriptions accelerated to new levels in 2019, reflecting a consumer viewing transition magnified by additional streaming video options and shifting service provider approaches that effectively de-emphasize the big subscription package.

Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, estimates full-year 2019 subscriptions to traditional cable, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and telecommunications (telco) video services dropped 7.1%. 

The virtual services, which rely on unmanaged broadband delivery, added more than 1.8 million subscriptions in 2019. Though a bright spot, it did not overcome the long shadow of cord cutting that saw a reduction to combined traditional and virtual subscriptions of more than 4.5 million in 2019.

Additional takeaways from Kagan’s 4th-quarter U.S. Multichannel Subscriber report: 

  • Combined cable, DBS and telco subscriptions fell by more than 1.6 million. It was a slower pace than the third quarter record decline, but marked a 50% jump in the more relevant year-over-year comparison.
  • Satellite accounted for the bulk of the traditional decline. Combined quarterly net losses for DIRECTV and DISH Network came in at an estimated 863,000.
  • An estimated 63.4% of occupied U.S. households subscribed to traditional multichannel in the fourth quarter. Combining virtual and traditional subscriptions pushes the metric up to nearly 71%.         

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