Cable TV Companies Lost Nearly 5 Million Subscribers in 2021

from the too-little-too-late dept

Remember when the cable and broadcast industry insisted that “cord cutting” (ditching traditional cable TV subscriptions) wasn’t actually a real trend? Or how, once they finally acknowledged it was a real thing, insisted that it was just a temporary fad that would abate once Millennials started having babies?

Years later and amazingly enough the very real trend shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. According to the latest data from Leichtman Research Group, major U.S. pay TV providers lost 4,700,000 subscribers in 2021. Just slightly less than the 4,870,000 subscribers they lost in 2020.

As has been consistently true in recent years, the losses have been much worse for satellite TV providers (Dish Network, DirecTV) that generally aren’t bundled with broadband in the way cable TV often is:

Top cable providers had a net loss of about 2,695,000 video subscribers in 2021 – compared to a loss of about 1,940,000 subscribers in 2020.

Other traditional pay-TV services had a net loss of about 2,890,000 subscribers in 2021 – compared to a loss of about 3,845,000 subscribers in 2020.

Cable broadband continues to be financially shielded by the fact that the dominant cable TV companies (Charter/Spectrum, Comcast) enjoy a growing monopoly over fixed-line broadband access, with 83 million Americans still living under a broadband monopoly. Said monopoly means they can simply extract any lost TV revenues through things like sneaky fees or bullshit broadband usage caps.

The 7 biggest U.S. cable TV providers now “only” have a grand total of around 41.3 million video subscribers. Consider, for context, that Netflix now has about 37 million in the U.S. alone. And the trend the cable industry spent years trying to deny (in a bid to justify high prices and inflexible cable bundles) continues on with only a very tiny slowdown.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: charter spectrum, comcast, directv, dish

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Comments on “Cable TV Companies Lost Nearly 5 Million Subscribers in 2021”

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Anonymous Coward says:


I am stuck paying for cable through my HOA. I never watch it.

I’ve avoided certain condominiums for exactly that reason.

Amusingly, I once had a cable guy show up to tell me they’d accidentally left the cable hooked up to my apartment, despite my never subscribing in the decade I’d lived there, but he’d leave it for a week if I said I’d subscribe. I’m not sure whether he was serious or it was just an interesting promotional strategy, because I’d never tried hooking anything up.

Odd how quickly one realizes cable sucks. Just a few years prior to moving there, I’d been excited when my university dorm room had active cable by accident. Some friends bought a splitter and we ran it through the hallway ceiling to their rooms (which was evidently a frequent occurrence, as we found roughly-cut lengths of cable up there). But that was around 2003, when the university network was throttled to be slower than dialup (for external addresses). I hear it’s now fast enough for streaming, so we must have been one of the last groups to ever do that—or to actually pay the cable company to activate in-room hookups.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But, the whole point of “cutting the cable” is that if Netflix goes too far with that, it’s trivial to drop them and use a competitor, reduce your subscription level, etc. while with cable you’re usually stuck with whatever provider and the bundles they’ve opted to offer.

Price can be an attractive and often used example of how cutting cable benefits the consumer, but in reality it’s the power to pick and choose the content you pay for that’s the real benefit.

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