Television service providers lost a record 2.37 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2024, according to analyst estimates. That is slightly more than they lost in the first quarter of the previous year. The first quarter of the calendar has seen the largest number of subscriber losses in recent years. 2024 is the worst yet, taking into account estimates of online multichannel services. Every quarter since 2018 has seen a decline in the total number of television subscribers in the United States.

It is estimated that nearly 5.20 million subscribers were lost in the United States in 2023. Between 2019 and 2024 there have been cumulative losses of over 22.75 million television subscribers.

United States Television subscribers 2019 Q1 - 2024 Q1. Source: informitv / MoffatNathanson / company reports

Analysts MoffettNathanson point out that online packages like YouTube TV are not compensating for the decline in traditional cable, satellite, and telco television services.

The major cable operators in the United States lost 1.14 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2024, which is slightly more than the 1.11 million they lost in the same period the previous year. Comcast lost 487,000 domestic video customers in the first quarter, which was less than the 614,000 they lost in the first quarter the previous year, or the 512,000 they lost in the same period the year before that.

Satellite operators DirectTV and Dish lost 589,000 subscribers between them, which is less than the 759,000 they lost in the first quarter the previous year.

Telco television providers lost an estimated 168,000 subscribers, which was again a little less than the 211,000 they lost in the same period the year prior.

Online multichannel services are estimated to have lost 469,000 subscribers, compared to a quarterly loss of 265,000 a year before.

Alphabet does not disclose quarterly subscriber numbers for YouTube TV, so these numbers are estimates, although Hulu Live lost about 100,000, Sling TV lost 135,000, an Fubo lost over 100,000 subscribers.

The fall is subscriber numbers is attributed to the rising prices of pay-television services, combined with the “strip-mining” of programming from traditional networks to direct-to-consumer online services, and the migration of advertising revenue to them. These self-reinforcing trends are further undermining the traditional television ecosystem.