This quarter we updated our pay TV subscriber figures by significantly expanding their coverage in terms of geographies and technologies. We added 56 new operators from 34 countries. In addition, while before we mainly focused on IPTV, now we include satellite (DTH) TV, cable TV, DTT, and OTT/online streaming services to paint a more complete picture of TV markets around the world. We believe the OTT figures are especially interesting, given the role of online video in increasing consumer demand for bandwidth and consequently in driving broadband network upgrades.
Our updated sample of pay TV providers includes 162 operators from 66 countries. As we feature dominant pay TV providers from around the world, their total customer base represents the majority of the global market.
As of Q4 2020, there were 864 million pay TV subscribers in our sample. The quarterly growth of pay TV subscriptions stood at 4.6% , having gone up by more than one percentage point compared to the previous quarter.
Figure 1. Pay TV subscriber numbers and growth. Source: Point Topic.
Overall, pay TV subscribers have been growing at 2-3 times the rates of fixed broadband, and with different quarterly growth patterns often determined by the timings of various sports seasons and releases of new content such as popular series.
Table 1. Pay TV and broadband subscriber growth. Source: Point Topic.
Continuous investment in new content has driven the growth of OTT services, which are the main contributor to the pay TV boom. In the last 12 months alone, subscriptions to Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and other OTT services increased by more than 50%. Over the same period, IPTV services over fibre and copper grew by 10% and 5% respectively, satellite TV saw a 7% decline, while cable TV subscriptions increased by less than 1%.
Figure 2. Annual pay TV subscriber growth rates, including OTT. Source: Point Topic.
Similar trends can be observed over the last six quarters, with ‘traditional’ pay TV operators losing out to online streaming service providers. One exception is FTTH, mainly due to China alone reporting 315 million IPTV subscribers using this technology. However, streaming giants Netflix, Amazon and especially the new entrant Disney+ are rapidly catching up, despite the fact that they do not lock consumers into long term contracts, enabling them to unsubscribe and re-subscribe as they wish. In fact, it is one of the factors which makes streaming services more attractive compared to the more traditional pay TV services. The latter’s key competitive advantage is sports broadcasting contracts, although the likes of Amazon Prime Video have already ventured into this area by broadcasting tennis tournaments, for example.
Figure 3. Pay TV subscribers by technology (including OTT). Source: Point Topic.
Globally, Disney+ subscribers are growing at especially high rates, dwarfing even Netflix, the largest OTT provider at the moment. Having launched their service at the end of 2019, Disney+ have already amassed customer base of nearly 100m which is almost half the size of Netflix subscriptions. It took Netflix nine years to reach the same subscriber number since launching online streaming in 2007. Disney+ saw huge jump in its subscriber growth in Q2 2020, at the height of the global pandemic.
Figure 4. Quarterly growth of Netflix and Disney+ subscribers worldwide. (Disney+ was launched in late 2019).
At a country level, the UK is a good example of the global trends in TV viewing habits. OTT providers Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV have been growing their penetration among the UK households, while the other TV platforms are either stagnating or losing subscribers.
Figure 5. TV service penetration in the UK. Source: Point Topic and BARB Establishment Survey.
Q2 2020 and Q3 2020 were especially good quarters for online streaming services as consumers spent more time at home due to the pandemic. The same was not true for the likes of TalkTalk, BT and Freesat. Sky and Virgin Media also still lost subscribers, albeit at a slower rate than before the pandemic began.
Figure 6. TV subscriber growth in the UK. Source: Point Topic and BARB Establishment Survey.
Not only in the UK but in many other markets the total pay TV penetration among households, especially when including OTT services, is higher than 100%, with households subscribing to more than one pay TV service. Unfortunately, we do not currently have the OTT subscriber data by country except for the UK. The top ten countries by pay TV household penetration excluding OTT feature a mixture of well developed economies with high GDP and those which high fibre broadband penetration (for example, Portugal, Korea, Hong Kong, China and Belarus).
Figure 7. Top ten countries by pay TV household penetration (excluding OTT; including Freeview in the UK). Source: Point Topic.
The complete Pay TV subscriber dataset by country, operator and technology is available with a subscription to our GBS, Double Play or Triple Play services. More details can be found on this page.
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 For Amazon Prime Video, the figures were only available for the UK market.