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Report: 1.12M Pay-TV Subscribers Fall Off In Q2 2021

Michael King

According to industry analysts, pay-TV subscriber numbers are still falling, albeit not quite as much as they have been.

MoffettNathanson’s most recent Cord-Cutting Monitor report, which looks at industry trends, says that traditional players lost another 1.35 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2021 — marking only a small improvement over their loss of 1.57 million in the same quarter a year ago.

Overall, cable subscription losses increased, off 644,000 in Q2 2021 versus 593,000 in Q2 of 2020. In comparison satellite losses improved — off 546,000 versus a drop of 812,000 a year earlier. Telco TV losses remained relatively even with a loss of 161,000 in Q2 of 2021 versus 166,000 in Q2 of 2021.

The larger comparison ties to vMVPDs (virtual multichannel video program distributors) — streamers that include Hulu, YouTube TV, Philo, Sling TV, fuboTV, Vidgo, and the newly-rebranded DIRECTV STREAM. That category gained 227,000 subscribers in Q2 2021. That may seem impressive, but it’s well below the 347,000 increase a year earlier. Coronavirus lockdowns likely led to the greater acceleration a year ago.

According to MoffettNathanson, vMVPDs currently have about 12 million subscribers, but the rate of conversion — or consumers who switch from a traditional pay-TV service to a vMVPD service — is only about 32%.

“Once again, the vMVPD industry, now burdened by higher retail pricing, is only converting about 1/3rd of the traditional subscribers who cut the cord over the past year,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wrote.

One question that Moffett poses is whether live sports is beginning to lose their allure. He says that while die-hard sports fans are likely to stick around, declines in viewership of all major sports — including less-than-stellar viewing for the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games — indicate the base of more casual sports fans may be in some jeopardy.

He cautions that he believes it is too early to draw any solid conclusions, but the question remains out there without an answer.

“As we enter fall with the return of college and pro football, and with fans flocking to televised games, stadiums, and mobile betting apps, sports viewership trends could improve,” he said, noting that the next few quarters will be instructive about the true direction of sports viewership. “We keep coming back to this simple question: if sports aren’t the glue to hold all this together, then what is?”

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