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Cord cutters unite: Pay TV providers lost subscribers for first time ever in 2013

Published Mar 18th, 2014 10:45PM EDT
Pay TV Subscriber Losses

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The pay TV industry may not be sweating the cord cutting trend just yet but for the first time in 2013 it had a reason to take notice. According to new data from Leichtman Research Group, pay TV providers posted a net loss of 104,000 subscribers in 2013, the first time the pay TV industry has ever lost subscribers year-over-year. The biggest losers were Time Warner Cable and Comcast, which respectively lost 825,00 and 305,000 pay TV subscribers each. Given how poorly both those companies have fared in multiple customer satisfaction surveys, this isn’t too surprising.

However, it looks as though all cable providers took hits to their pay TV subscriber numbers on the year: Charter lost 121,000 pay TV subscribers in 2013, Cablevision lost 80,000 and Cable ONE lost just under 55,000. The only pay TV providers that did really well last year were satellite TV or telecom companies: Verizon FiOS added 536,000 pay TV subscribers in 2013, AT&T U-Verse added 924,000 and DirecTV added 169,000.

So really, it looks like Americans aren’t souring on the notion of pay TV in general so much as they’re souring on pay TV offered by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other big cable companies. As more alternatives to cable spread — whether it’s in the form of alternative providers such as U-Verse and Google Fiber, or alternative ways to watch TV through the web such as Netflix and Hulu — we’d expect to see this trend accelerate.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.