The top 10 television service providers in the United States lost almost a million subscribers between them in 2016. The informitv Multiscreen Index shows they collectively lost 937,000 television customers over the year, but as a result of mergers and acquisitions the top 10 services still have one and a half million more subscribers than a year previously, accounting for three quarters of television homes in the United States.
The 10 leading services in the United States that report subscriber numbers accounted for 88.69 million television customers at the end of 2016, which is 1.05% fewer than they had at the end of the previous year.
Yet at the end of 2015, the 10 leading service providers had 87.15 million television customers, so despite losing subscribers, corporate consolidation means that the top 10 actually ended 2016 with more television customers than they had at the start of the year.
The main change was the formation of Charter Spectrum from the former Charter and Time Warner Cable. Separately they had 15.14 million customers but recast in combination they ended up with 16.84 million.
The four leading providers, Comcast, DIRECTV, Charter Spectrum and DISH Network, ended 2016 with 74.03 million customers between them. The top 10 services account for 75% of all television homes in the United States.
Despite a lot of talk about so-called “cord cutting”, some of the service providers are doing better than others.
Comcast gained 161,000 television customers in 2016, with net additions in three of the four quarters, compared to a net loss of 36,000 over the previous year. With 22.51 million television customers, such changes are relatively marginal, but the positive trend is notable.
DIRECTV added 1.23 million television subscribers in the United States in 2016, gaining every quarter, although the AT&T U-verse service of its parent company lost 1.36 million over the year. This appears to be a deliberate strategy from AT&T. Its telco television service is down to 4.25 million customers, from a peak of 5.97 million in March 2015, before AT&T completed its acquisition of DIRECTV.
Verizon Fios shed 1.13 million telco television subscribers in 2016, largely through the transfer of 1.18 million customers to Frontier Communications in April. Verizon saw an organic gain of 59,000 over the year, compared to a gain of 178,000 the previous year.
Frontier gained 865,000 customers over the year, including those transferred from Verizon, without which it would have lost subscribers.
Charter Spectrum and DISH Network both lost 226,000 subscribers in 2016. Optimum, Suddenlink and Mediacom also lost subscribers over the year.
Six of the 10 services reported television subscriber losses in the last quarter, losing 532,000 between them. AT&T reported a loss of 262,000 U-verse television customers in the quarter, as it continues to focus on DIRECTV. Optimum, formerly Cablevision, had 121,000 fewer television customers than the previous quarter, although as a result of a change in the way its owner Altice accounts for business customers it reported a loss of 15,000. With Comcast, DIRECTV, DISH Network and Verizon Fios all reporting subscriber gains in the last quarter, the net quarterly loss across the top 10 was 168,000.
The top 10 services started 2017 with 88.69 million television customers. The leaderboard does not include Cox Communications, which is privately held and does not report figures.
For comparison, the top 10 services at the end of 2015 had 87.15 million television customers, slightly down on the 87.67 they had at the end of 2014.
|Time Warner Cable||32,000||10.82|
So, although the overall rate of subscriber loss increased, the leading service providers still ended up with more television customers.
“The names and rankings may change but despite losing nearly a million subscribers between them, the top 10 services have 1.54 million more television subscribers between them than the top 10 a year ago,” notes informitv analyst Dr Sue Farrell.
The top 10 service providers represent nearly 9 out of 10 homes in the country that pay for television.
“Although they lost 1% of their subscriber base in 2016, these 10 service providers still account for 75% of television homes in the United States,” added Dr William Cooper, the editor of the informitv Multiscreen Index.
The Multiscreen Index comprises 100 leading multichannel television and video services that collectively account for around 420 million subscribing homes worldwide. The index provides an industry benchmark of the relative performance of television service providers against which customer gains or losses can be measured.