AT&T lost 897,000 premium television subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, reducing its total to 18.57 million. The company also lost 138,000 online video subscribers, declining to 788,000. That produced a combined loss of over a million video subscribers, or 4.50 million in 12 months. AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson is to retire and be replaced by chief operating officer John Stankey. The company is due to launch its HBO Max subscription service in May.
AT&T lost 3.43 million premium television subscribers in 2019, or 3.78 million in the last 12 months. Most of those will be from the former DIRECTV satellite television operation, as well as the former U-verse fibre network service.
The premium television number also includes AT&T TV, an online offering which launched in late 2019 and expanded nationally in the first quarter of 2020. The company described subscriber acquisition as in line with expectations, saying it was “right on the plan of what we expected in terms of volume” but it did not break out numbers.
It also includes a change in reporting policy to align with the mobility business, which added 117,000 premium television subscribers, without which the quarterly loss would have been over a million.
With that, premium television subscriber losses were less than in the previous two quarters, but substantially higher than they were a year previously.
AT&T maintains that its focus is on “adding higher-value customers”. Average revenue per premium television subscriber was $126.27 per month, down from the previous quarter, but up from $114.18 for the first quarter the previous year.
The online video service, AT&T TV NOW, formerly DIRECTV NOW, lost 665,000 subscribers in 2019, or 786,000 in the last 12 months. It has lost 57% of its subscribers since it peaked at 1.86 million in September 2018.
Taking premium and online television subscribers together, AT&T lost 4.01 million in 2019 and 4.50 million in the last 12 months. It now has a combined total of 19.36 million, down from 25.37 million two years previously.
Video revenue was down to $7.40 billion, down from $8.07 billion the previous quarter and $8.07 billion the same quarter the previous year.
The company has also been losing broadband subscribers, down to 14.05 million from 14.45 million 12 months previously. Of these, the number of fibre connections has risen from 3.06 million to 4.10 million over the same period, adding 209,000 in the first quarter of 2020.
Revenue from internet access rose to $2.11 billion, compared to $2.07 billion for the same quarter a year previously.
Total quarterly revenue in the entertainment group was $10.15 billion, down from $11.33 billion a year before.
Quarterly revenues across the entire AT&T group were $42.78 billion, compared to $44.83 a year before.
In Latin America, now operating under the Vrio brand, the number of video subscribers fell by 114,000 to 13.22 million, a loss of 367,000 in 12 months. That includes satellite and online subscribers.
Days after the announcement of its quarterly results, AT&T announced that after 13 years leading the company, Randall Stephenson, who is 60, will retire as chief executive at the end of June. That is earlier than expected, although he will continue as executive chairman for a further six months.
The board has appointed the current chief operating officer, John Stankey, as chief executive. Elliott Management, the activist investment firm that pushed for executive changes at AT&T is reported to support the appointment. Until recently he was also chief executive of AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, that position will be assumed by Jason Kilar, the former co-founder of Hulu.
AT&T will launch HBO Max on 27 May, a premium subscription video service, which will be free for many AT&T mobile subscribers, or $15 a month for others.