Skip to main content

Screen Wars Thought Leader Interviews are also available on

SpotifyApple PodcastGoogle Podcast
State of the Screens

Pay-TV’s Floor: How Low Is It?

By July 4, 2024No Comments

pay tv's floor

Four big questions re: cord-cutting:
1) How many homes subscribe to a pay-TV bundle?
2) Are streaming pay-TV services replacing all the subscribers leaving traditional pay-TV?
3) Where is the bottom for pay-TV subscriptions?
4) How will cord-cutting impact the 2024 election?

Big question #1: How many homes subscribe to a pay-TV bundle?

Quick answer: 74M (56% of all HH)

YoY change in pay-TV subscribers according to Leichtman Research Group:
1) Traditional pay-TV – ↓ 7.5M
2) Streaming pay-TV – ↑ 2.9M
3) Total pay-TV – ↓ 4.6M

Total pay-TV subscriptions (YoY growth) according to Kagan:
1) 2022-Q1 – 82.6M
2) 2023-Q1 – 78.2M (↓ 5%)
3) 2023-Q1 – 73.5M (↓ 5%)

Bottom line: Q1 was the worst quarter ever for cord cutting.

Quote from Anthony Crupi – Sports Media Reporter @ Sportico:

“The state of the pay-TV business is a bit like the winding-down phase of one of those off-campus keggers that you maybe recall from school, the undergrad parties where you forked over five bucks to the grouch at the door in exchange for a red Solo® cup and a whole lot of adolescent noise. Maybe you got there late because the pregaming got a little out of hand, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the fun part is over.

Sure, the party may grind on for a bit, but there’s no use in holding out for a second wind. The keg’s not killed, exactly, but it’s floating, and while there are still a bunch of people milling around the kitchen, they’re an older crowd: townies, the dutifully employed. And you don’t even want to know about the bathroom situation. If sheer inertia doesn’t snuff this thing out, the increasingly frazzled-looking hosts will. You don’t gotta go home, but you can’t stay here, etc…”

Interesting: Data from the Advertising Research Foundation shows movement to and from pay-TV.  More consumers are leaving, but a small percentage go back.

Shift between 2022-23:
1) Pay-TV to broadband-only (BBO) – 21% (11% of total HH)
2) Broadband-only (BBO) to pay-TV – 18% (6% of total HH)
3) Antenna (OTA) to pay-TV – 16% (2% of total HH)
4) Pay-TV to antenna (OTA) – 6% (3% of total HH)

Wow: 9% of broadband-only households (3% of total HH) dropped broadband and returned to rabbit ears.

Methodology note: Leichtman Research Group has stopped releasing pay-TV subscriber data, but we have switched to a combination of sources, including Kagan and MoffetNathanson.  Past numbers may differ due to this.

Big question #2: Are streaming pay-TV services replacing all the subscribers leaving traditional pay-TV?

Quick answer: No.  Traditional pay-TV shed nearly 3X as many subscribers as streaming pay-TV added YoY.

Streaming pay-TV subscriptions (YoY growth):
1) 2022-Q1 – 15.3M
2) 2023-Q1 – 118.5M (↑ 21%)
3) 2024-Q1 – 121.4M (↑ 16%)

Ruh roh: YouTube TV lost subscribers for the first time!

Streaming share of pay-TV subscribers:
1) 2022-Q1 – 19%
2) 2023-Q1 – 24%
2) 2024-Q1 – 29%

Big question #3: Where is the bottom for pay-TV subscriptions?

Quick answer: This vibe has completely changed over the past year.  Not too long ago, the number Doug Shapiro used for his bull case (50M subs) was a bear case for many.

Projected pay-TV subscriber number by 2030 (% of U.S. HH) according to Doug Shapiro:
1) Bull case – 50M (37%)
2) Base case – 43M (31%)
3) Bear case 35M (26%)

Big question #4: How will cord-cutting impact the 2024 election?

Quick answer: In 2020, more American households watched streaming TV than subscribed to pay TV for the first time.   For 2024, streaming will reach 63% more HH (117M vs. 72M) and play a major role in the political ad wars.

Growth between 2019-23:
1) Streaming TV – 80M117M (↑ 46%)
2) Pay-TV – 92M72M (↓ 22%)

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.