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Biggest cable, satellite companies lost 6 million subscribers

A Comcast XFinity cable technician.
A Comcast XFinity cable technician. (Photo: Pixabay, Graphic: The Desk)

The top pay television companies in the United States lost a collective 6 million subscribers in 2020 as the trend of ditching expensive cable and satellite packages for cheaper online services continues.

According to data released this week by Invormitv’s Multiscreen Index, all but one traditional pay TV company lost video subscribers in 2020.

The one holdout, Charter/Spectrum, saw an unusual gain of 19,000 residential video customers last year.

Service (Company)# SubscribersChange (2019-2020)
XFinity (Comcast)18,990,000-1,295,000
DirecTV / U-Verse (AT&T)16,510,000-2,991,000
Spectrum (Charter)15,640,00019,000
Dish Network8,820,000-574,000
Verizon Fios3,850,000-298,000
Altice USA2,960,000-218,200
Sling TV (Dish Network)2,470,000-122,000
AT&T TV (AT&T)660,000-262,000

Subscribers by the end of 2020 among the leading 10 pay television services in the United States.
Data via Informitv Multiscreen Index.

Among the biggest pay TV companies, AT&T saw the largest exodus of pay television subscribers, with over 2.9 million customers fleeing the company’s DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse offerings. Coupled with its over-the-top streaming TV service AT&T TV, the company lost over 3.2 million video customers last year, the data showed.

The decline has been largely cited as the inspiration behind AT&T’s recent decision to spin its pay TV division into a separate company under the DirecTV brand. AT&T paid $48.5 billion for DirecTV in 2015.

Comcast, the largest pay TV company by number of subscribers, saw the second-biggest decline in video subscribers, with more than 1.25 million people dropping the Xfinity-branded television service for other options.

Most of the telecoms listed were able to offset declines in their pay TV operations with a mass adoption of their broadband Internet services, particularly at a time when most people were working or going to school from home due to the ongoing coronavirus health pandemic.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).