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Cord-Cutting Reaches New Heights as Pay TV Loses About 1.74 Million Subscribers in Third Quarter

Stephanie Sengwe

It seems the train that is cord-cutting continues to carry on full steam ahead, leaving cable TV in the dust. According to a report by Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG), pay-TV companies lost about 1.74 million customers in the third quarter, the biggest single-quarter loss the industry has ever posted. This is in addition to the combined 2.88 million subscribers the industry lost in the first and second quarters.

“The top pay-TV providers had a net loss of about 1,740,000 subscribers in 3Q 2019. This marked the fifth consecutive quarter of record pay-TV industry net losses,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “AT&T, the leading pay-TV provider in the U.S., accounted for 79% of the net losses in the quarter compared to 30% of net losses in 3Q 2018. This change is largely the result of AT&T’s strategic decision to increasingly focus on retaining and acquiring more profitable subscribers.”

LRG findings seem to be consistent with other industry analysts. In August, eMarkerter estimated that over 40 million households would be without a pay-TV service by the end of 2019. The company projected that cord-cutters would jump another 19.2 percent and that pay-TV households would decline by 4.2 percent to just 86.5 million. LRG is reporting that the top pay-TV providers currently account for about 84.8 million subscribers.

By the end of 2021, eMarketer projected that there will be fewer than 80 million pay-TV households for the first time, and that by 2023 there will be just under 73 million.

With more direct-to-consumer offerings on the horizon like Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max joining existing ones like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, the rush to cheaper options is on the way. And this doesn’t factor those who have switched to a live TV streaming service, which offers a similar cable bundle and DVR without additional fees and contracts.

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