Here are a few numbers which, at this point, shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Cord-cutting hit a record high in the third quarter, with almost 2 million people abandoning Pay TV and all those bills stuffed with hidden fees, not to mention the often terrible customer service. That loss of 1.74 million customers during the period represented the biggest-ever loss for the industry in a single quarter. And, unsurprisingly, accounting for most of that loss was AT&T, to which 1.37 million of those 1.74 million customers belonged.
That’s according to a new quarterly research report from Leichtman Research Group (LRG), which tracked the inexorable climb of subscribers ditching cable TV in the third quarter going back to 2016. In Q3 of that year, the industry lost 250,000 subscribers. Then 405,000 one year later, followed by 975,000 users in the third quarter of 2018. The report continues: “AT&T, the leading pay-TV provider in the US, 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.”
For more context into how precipitous the losses have become for an industry that can’t seem to figure out how to stop bleeding subscribers, the LRG data shows that the 12 leading US Pay TV companies now serve 84.8 million customers. That’s down from 92.2 million in 2017.
It’s not hard to see where this ends for cable, long known for its fixed packages of channels that include lots of offerings customers don’t want and never watch. Many providers have started rolling out so-called “skinny” bundles, but the money hasn’t been enough to replace the traditional subscriber losses.
The statement above argues that AT&T, which has its AT&T U-Verse cable and internet offering as well as the DirecTV brand, seems to understand the writing on the wall and isn’t trying all that hard to replace the customers who are leaving. In a statement accompanying the findings, LRG president Bruce Leichtman summed up the industry’s current state and terrible outlook: “This marked the fifth consecutive quarter of record pay-TV industry net losses.”