The cord cutting trend has only accelerated in 2020, as millions of Americans continue dropping their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming options. Cable companies are pulling out all of the stops to reinvent themselves, but the decline of pay-TV is going to be a drag on business for some time. Likewise, traditional media giants with heavy TV exposure face similar challenges as cable subscriptions go out the window. Launching their own streaming platforms has proven successful, but it’s only half the battle in terms of profitability.
Related Stocks: Comcast Corporation (CMCSA), AT&T Inc. (T), Charter Communications, Inc. (CHTR), Roku, Inc. (ROKU), The Walt Disney Company (DIS), ViacomCBS Inc. (VIAC)
As a whole, cable and satellite companies lost 1.8 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2020. And a recent eMarketer survey estimated the total number of 2020 cord-cutters at over six million.
At the end of their most recently reported quarter, AT&T counted 17.8 million pay-TV subscribers. That’s more than 7 million fewer subscribers than just two years ago. While the company showed progress in stemming the losses, down just 627,000 last quarter, CEO John Stankey noted that cord-cutting won’t really stop until pay-TV subscribers are drawn down to between 55 million and 60 million subscribers. There were about 87 million subscribers as of mid-2020.
A CNBC survey produced a similar result, estimating pay-TV subscriptions to drop by another twenty-five million in the next five years, equaling the amount of subscribers it’s already lost over the last eight years. At that point, the industry is seen stabilizing at about 50 million subscribers. This would mean a decline in revenue of $25 billion, across the companies in the space, and accompanying advertising losses for the media companies with which they do business.
AT&T can see the writing on the wall, continually attempting to sell off its failing DirecTV division, which it purchased for $49 billion in 2015. arstechnica reports that AT&T is set to offer a huge discount for the assets with first-round bids for DirecTV reportedly around just $15.75 billion.
The company has managed some streaming success with their HBO Max streaming option, but AT&T TV Now, has just 683,000 subscribers left from the 1.86 million it had two years ago.
While Charter Communications has been one major outlier to the cord-cutting trend, adding more than 100,000 residential pay-TV subscribers to their Spectrum cable service in the second quarter, The Motley Fool notes that the rise has been driven by plunging prices for their cable subscriptions. Not only is Charter collecting much less revenue per subscriber, but the rising carriage fees from pay-TV companies also threaten to make this kind of subscriber growth unsustainable.
Out of all the cable giants, Comcast has been forging the most intriguing ventures to adapt their business model for the future…