Maybe now is the time to panic? As TV viewers continue their shift to streaming services, major cable and satellite operators saw another sizable exodus of subscribers last year, according to new estimates from Leichtman Research Group.
The top providers lost a combined 1.5 million pay-TV subscribers in 2017, almost double the loss of the year before.
Leichtman’s data, which covers about 95% of the market, shows the two satellite TV companies—DirecTV and Dish Network—were hit especially hard, losing more than 1.5 million traditional subscribers between the two of them. The companies were able to offset those losses with new sign-ups for their streaming services—DirecTV Now and Sling TV saw estimated gains of 711,000 and 888,000 subscribers, respectively. But as some analysts have pointed out, it’s unclear if these low-cost services are going to be enough to save their parent companies over the long haul.
The picture wasn’t much rosier for cable. The six operators (a list that includes Comcast, Charter, and Altice) shed a combined 660,000 pay-TV subscribers in 2017, compared to a loss of 275,000 subscribers in 2016.
Leichtman’s quarterly reports have been especially bleak lately, showing the industry’s top players are well beyond the point where they can pretend cord-cutting is a temporary trend. Last year, the industry broke records for quarterly losses on more than one occasion.