nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

How the US linear TV market stacks up

US cable satellite telcoTV subs 2012-2018

The chairs continue to shuffle in the delivery of linear TV services to US consumers. Traditional pay TV continues to contract, vMVPDs and over-the-air TV continues to expand. Here are all the numbers you need to know.

Homes with cable, satellite, or telcoTV: 89.5 million

According to Leichtman Research, top cable, satellite, and telcoTV providers lost 3.5 million subscribers in 2018. Satellite took the biggest hit, losing 2.4 million customers. The top six publicly reporting cable companies lost 910,000. AT&T, Verizon, and Frontier telcoTV services lost 244,000.

Leichtman’s estimates cover approximately 95% for the market. So, overall the industry lost around 3.8 million customers, to reach 89.5 million homes.

Penetration of occupied US homes fell to 73%, down 14% from its high in 2013.

US cable satellite telcoTV penetration 2012-2018

Homes without traditional pay TV: 33 million

Homes without cable, satellite, or telco TV service increased 6 million in 2018. Occupied US households increased 2.3 million (to 122.5 million,) and the balance of the increase came from those people that left pay TV. There are now 33 million homes – 27% of all occupied US homes – without a traditional pay TV subscription.

US homes without cable satellite telcoTV 2012-2018

Homes with a vMVPD: 9 million

The two reporting services – DirecTV Now and Sling TV – did not a have a good 2018. Though both added 641,000 subscribers, growth slowed dramatically for Sling TV toward the end of the year. Sling added 205,000 subs in 2018, but only 73,000 came in the second half. The service finished with 2.4 million customers.

DirecTV swung to a significant loss in the fourth quarter, dropping 267,000 subscribers. It managed an overall gain on the year of 436,000 to reach 1.6 million subscribers.

Hulu just announced its Live service reached 2 million subscribers. MoffettNathanson estimates YouTube TV is nearing 1 million customers, though other estimates put the total much higher.

Other vMVPDs stack up as follows:

All told, there are at least 8 million vMPVD subscribers. nScreenMedia thinks a more realistic estimate is 9 million.

Homes with over-the-air TV: 16 million

The over-the-air (OTA) broadcast industry continues its renaissance. Nielsen says the number of homes using an antenna to watch television has increased from 11 million in Q2 of 2010 to 16 million in Q2 2018. Almost all the growth in OTA households has come from homes that also watch some form of Internet television.

Why it matters

The sources people use to watch linear TV in the US are changing.

Here’s how many people are using Pay TV, vMVPDs, and over-the-air and the growth trajectory of each.


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