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More than 1 million people cut the cord during the most recent quarter

Published Feb 13th, 2019 7:06PM EST
Cord cutting vs cable
Image: imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Dish Network announced today that it shed 334,000 subscribers during the fourth quarter, with a substantial portion of the departures being attributed to the ongoing dispute with HBO that’s caused HBO programming to be blacked out for Dish subscribers.

If that wasn’t enough, Dish president and CEO Erik Carlson added that there’s been essentially no progress in talks with HBO over the blackout — the first in Dish’s almost 50-year history, which likely spooked many subscribers to go ahead and cancel especially with April’s season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones getting closer and closer.

It must surely sting to run a subscriber-based business and have to tell investors, at a time when everyone is aware that less expensive and more convenient options are eating away at your business, that you lost more than a quarter of a million customers during a single quarter. But things are indeed really that bad for traditional cable TV providers — and new fourth quarter and full-year 2018 figures for the biggest providers show that things are only getting worse.

Media analyst Rich Greenfield shared this chart on Twitter today showing just how bad things are for the industry. It shows the top providers collectively lost more than 1 million subscribers during the fourth quarter alone:

The folks over at Cord Cutters News try to put this into context, explaining in a new post that as bad as these numbers are, it’s an even more dire picture when you compare where things stood during the year-ago period. “What is even scarier is that in the same period of 2017 pay-TV services gained 135,000 subscribers thanks to huge ads by AT&T and Dish mostly thanks to their live TV streaming services,” the site reports. “At this rate of growth cord cutting could add over 5 million new cord cutters just from canceled cable TV subscriptions.

“This does not count the Americans who grow up and move out of their parents home but never pay for a cable TV services. The news may even be worse for small cable TV companies. Recently it was announced that the cable TV company RTC will be ending TV services on July 1st, 2019. Reports are they are just one of many small cable TV companies looking at this option.”

Taking a step back, there’s also new data available for 2018 as a whole that shows a continued acceleration in the cord-cutting trend.

According to a new Variety report, the five biggest US cable TV providers saw their collective subscriber total fall by 4.2% last year, thanks to an aggregate loss of 3.2 million customers in 2018. That 4.2% decline surpassed the decline of 3.7% those same companies suffered the year prior.

“Comcast, AT&T/DirecTV, Charter, Dish and Verizon all sustained year-over-year net pay-TV losses, as more consumers dropped pricey bundles in favor of internet streaming video services like Netflix and free, over-the-air broadcast TV,” Variety reports. “But the agony fell disproportionately on DirecTV and Dish, which dropped 1.24 million and 1.13 million satellite subs, respectively, over 2018.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.