The final numbers are in for 2019 and the largest cable providers collectively lost over 5.9 million customers for the year – a loss of almost 7% of customers. The numbers below come from Leichtman Research Group which compiles these numbers from reports made to investors, except for Cox which is estimated. The numbers reported are for the largest cable providers, and Leichtman estimates that these companies represent 95% of all cable customers in the country.
Following is a comparison of the end of 2018 and 2019:
|4Q 2019||4Q 2018||Change||% Change|
These losses were offset a bit as the combination of Hulu Live, Sling TV and AT&T TV collectively added just over 1 million customers. Leichtman doesn’t have subscriber numbers for YouTube TV and a few others that are not publicly reported.
Some observations of the numbers:
- The overall loss of nearly 7% of customers represents a free fall of traditional cable TV. At the worst of the downside, landlines dropped about 5% of market share per year.
- The big loser is AT&T, which lost nearly 4.1 million video customers between DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, and AT&T TV. The losses were so large at DirecTV that Charter moved up to become the second largest cable provider.
- The big percentage loser is Frontier that lost 21% of its cable customers for the year.
- The cable big companies fared the best, but this is partially due to the fact that Comcast and Charter each added 1.4 million broadband customers for the year – and added cable customers as part of that growth.
- Cable ONE’s losses are small due to the 2019 acquisition of Fidelity.
As large as these losses are, the losses for 2020 are likely to be a lot larger. The primary reason household still give for cutting the cord is the high price of traditional cable TV. My guess is that the uncertainty of household incomes this year are going to drive many more homes to save money by migrating to lower-cost entertainment alternatives.