Last quarter, satellite TV subscriptions fell by 4.7%, which is the industry’s biggest loss yet. The downward spiral of traditional subscribers at Dish Network and DirecTV is even sharper than what cable providers like Comcast are experiencing, according to analyst firm MoffettNathanson. That makes sense, given that cable providers can use internet bundles to keep TV customers on board, although cable subscriptions didn’t fare much better last quarter with a 3.4% loss.
It’s worth noting that AT&T (which owns DirecTV) and Dish Network are simultaneously adding subscribers through their respective DirecTV Now and Sling TV streaming bundles. Factor in those streaming additions, and Dish only lost an estimated 36,000 customers last quarter, while AT&T gained about 90,000 customers. AT&T CEO John Donovan reiterated this week that the company wants to shift all its TV services from satellite to streaming, noting that online video eliminates the cost of having a technician come out and install a satellite dish.
Still, those subscribers come at a price. MoffettNathanson notes that current streaming providers are offering TV service “at or below cost,” and they’re also buying subscribers through free trials and device deals. The hope is that they can recoup costs through more targeted advertising, but that assumes these streaming bundles will continue to grow, even as new bundle options like FuboTV and Philo pop up.
If there’s one overarching message in MoffettNathanson’s latest report, it’s that the future of TV is tough for anyone to predict.