AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, & Other Cable Operators Lost 1.8 Million Customers in Quarter 1

remote pointing at tvTraditional cable and satellite TV providers lost a record number of customers in the first quarter of 2020, with a drop of 1.8 million, according to analyst firm MoffettNathanson.

“At 63% of occupied households, traditional pay TV penetration has reached a level not previously seen since roughly 1995,” wrote analyst Craig Moffett in a research note. “There are now as many non-subscribing households (46M) as there were pay TV subscribers in 1988.”

In their recent earnings calls, we learned that Dish is down 413,000 customers, Comcast lost 388,000 customers, and AT&T lost nearly 900,000 across its pay TV platforms. Analysts cite rising prices of cable subscriptions, a lack of live sports, and anticipation of possible recession as the causes of 7.6% rate of decline.

“We believe the outbreak could drive modest acceleration in cord-cutting in the lockdown phase but more dramatic declines post-lockdown given the expected recession,” wrote UBS Securities analyst John Hodulik.

Along with the drop in cable subscribers was a decline in streaming subscriptions. YouTube TV, Sling TV, and similar services saw a 341,000 subscriber loss for the quarter, MoffettNathanson reported.

“It is perhaps some comfort that some of the same companies losing distribution for their traditional cable networks – we’re looking at you, Disney and Comcast – have launched direct-to-consumer ‘lifeboats’ that are rapidly gaining traction with distraction-starved, shut-in consumers,” Moffett said. “AT&T will join this club in a few weeks with the launch of HBO Max. But it is increasingly clear that as consumers climb into these lifeboats, they are leaving the (sinking) motherships behind.”

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