The cord-cutting revolution saw a veritable blood bath for traditional pay-TV services over the course of 2019, as an estimated 4.915 million customers dropped their providers, according to data released this week by the Leichtman Research Group.

The year-end U.S. pay-TV market research report from LRG indicated the net subscriber losses were as much as 3 million more than previous years and were led by multi-platform losses from AT&T’s DirecTV, AT&T TV Now and U-Verse services, which registered a net loss of about 4,120,000 subscribers in 2019, compared to a net loss of about 750,000 subscribers in 2018, LRG said.

AT&T has launched a new AT&T TV vMVPD series aimed at transitioning DirecTV satellite subscribers and others to a premium online streaming version of the satellite TV platform. Company executives have also acknowledged they would entertain proposals to sell the satellite business.

According to the study, at the end of the year U.S. pay-TV subscribers were spread across the top seven cable companies (45.8 million video subscribers), satellite TV services (25.4 million subscribers), telco TV companies (8.3 million subscribers) and the top three publicly reporting live online-delivered virtual multichannel video distributed (vMVPD) pay-TV services (6.7 million subscribers).

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The satellite TV sector took the biggest hit lossing a combined 3.7 million subscribers in 2019, which was approximately 1.34 million more than in 2018. AT&T’s DirecTV lost about 3.190 million subscribers in 2019, nearly three times losses of the previous year. In 2019, total satellite service subscriber losses (primarily DirecTV and Dish) dropped 12.7%, compared to 7.5% loss in 2018, Leichtman revealed.

The top seven cable companies dropped nearly 1.56 million video subscribers during the year, compared with a net loss of about 920,000 subscribers in 2018. The cable operators saw a 3.3% decline in video subscirbers, down from 1.9% in 2018.

The nation’s telco TV operations lost about 665,000 video subscribers in 2019, compared to 245,000 net losses, a 7.4% cumulative decline in video subscribers from the previous year, which registered 2.6% shortfall in 2018.

On the live streaming TV service side, leading vMVPD services Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and AT&T TV Now added about 1.01 million subscribers in 2019, which was up 18% from a year ago. That compares to an increase of 1.94 million subscriber additions, which were up 50% from the prior year.

“Overall, the top pay-TV providers lost 5.4% of subscribers in 2019 compared to a loss of 1.7% in 2018,” a statement from Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, reads. “The significant increase in pay-TV net losses in 2019 was both a function of consumers having more video options, and the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability in acquiring and retaining subscribers.”

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By Greg Tarr

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