News and Analysis
Despite reports of impending doom, the nation’s top three pay TV services actually gained a net of 179,000 video subscribers in the fourth quarter.

AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, U-verse and DIRECTV Now, added a net of 161,000 video customers in the fourth quarter. Charter added a net of 15,000 (including its business subscribers) while Comcast lost a net of 33,000.

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Dish, the fourth largest pay TV operator, will release its subscriber numbers for the fourth quarter tomorrow while Verizon, the fifth largest, lost a net of 29,000 video customers in the time period.

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While a poor performance by Dish could change the overall outlook, the fourth quarter numbers from the top three pay TV operators suggest the industry has at least slowed the bleeding.

And there’s a reason. Live streaming.

AT&T’s net gain in last year’s fourth quarter was driven by DIRECTV Now, the live streaming service that added 368,000 customers in the time period. Without DIRECTV Now, AT&T’s video business (DIRECTV, U-verse) would have lost 207,000 video subs in last year’s fourth quarter.

And if Dish reports a solid fourth quarter as well, it will likely be the result of subscriber gains from Sling TV, the company’s live streaming service.

The traditional pay TV industry (cable and satellite) is still losing subscribers, but pay TV operators just may have found the way to keep consumers in the fold.

— Phillip Swann