Global subscription television penetration may have peaked in 2020, with revenues predicted to decline, according to Kagan, a research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. The global multichannel subscriber base reached over 1.1 billion by the end of 2020 but could have peaked at just over 60% of an estimated 1.81 billion television households. While declining in North America, the global television subscription market remains significant.

The number of television subscriptions grew by an estimated 2.1% in 2020, compared to 2.0% in 2019. Growth is forecast to fall to 1.5% in 2021.

Television subscriptions by mode 2019-2024. Source: Kagan / S&P Global

Although the total number of television subscribers is still expected to grow in the next 5 to 10 years in all regions apart from North America, it is expected to fall as a proportion of all television households.

By 2024, the number of television subscribers worldwide is forecast to be 1.2 billion, with a television household penetration of 60.0%, compared to 60.6% in 2020.

Global television subscription revenue is forecast to fall from $208 billion in 2020 to $190 billion in 2024, with the largest decline expected in North America.

Television subscriptions revenue by region 2019-2024. Source: Kagan / S&P Global

Traditional television subscriptions now account for two-thirds of television homes in North America. That represents a small fraction of the 1.1 billion homes that subscribe to television services worldwide but accounts for over half of global television subscription revenue.

In Western Europe just over 61% of homes subscribe to television services, while in Eastern Europe it is just over 65%. Penetration is lower in Latin America and the Caribbean at 38% while in the Middle East and Africa it is around 19%. The highest penetration is in the Asia Pacific region, at over 72%. China and India account for over half of subscription television homes, but despite large numbers, average revenue per subscriber is relatively low, so the share of global revenue is around that of Western Europe.

While the decline in traditional subscription television revenue in North America is already evident, it is compensated for by growth in other areas. Not only are other forms of video subscription generating increasing revenue, but fixed and mobile network access is providing significant revenue streams.

It is fashionable to assume that the number of television subscriptions is in sharp decline, but while revenues from traditional pay-television in North America may be falling, it is notable that they will continue to rise in other markets.

Furthermore, 1.1 billion households, or six out of ten of those with a television, is still a massive market.