Estimates vary, but a new report suggests that the worldwide pay-television market has passed the 900 million subscriber mark. It is forecast to grow to a billion by 2017, representing half the households in the world. Although mature markets are approaching saturation, there is room for growth in developing regions, with 1.1 billion television subscribers worldwide forecast by 2020.

“According to ABI Research’s recent pay-TV market data, half of the world’s households will have access to pay-TV service by 2017, representing 1 billion subscribers,” commented Jake Saunders, the director of core forecasting at ABI Research.

To compete with online rivals, many operators have added online, on-demand and multiscreen services. These have contributed additional revenue to pay-television operators as well as maintaining customer loyalty.

Competition is high in more mature markets, such as North America, where pay-television penetration is over 85% and with little room for organic growth.

The Asia Pacific market is expected to grow faster than other regions in the next few years, at a compound annual growth rate of 5%.

ABI Research suggests that the worldwide pay-television market is expected to reach 1.1 billion subscribers by 2020, generating over $300 billion in service revenue.

Digital TV Research recently reported an estimate of 878 million pay-television subscribers at the end of 2014, out of a total of 1.55 billion television homes worldwide.

The informitv Multiscreen Index shows that the index of 100 leading pay-television services worldwide gained 4.59 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2015, an increase of 1.27%.

These data contrast with the popular narrative that pay television is in structural decline. On the contrary, it appears that the penetration of pay-television is increasing worldwide, driven by growth in markets with the potential for further expansion.

The forecasts are provided in the quarterly Pay TV Subscribers report from ABI Research. The Digital TV World Databook, both available from Digital TV Research. The Multiscreen Index is published by informitv.