Global Pay-TV Market to Rocket to 1.1 Billion Subs in 2020

By Tara Seals March 26, 2015

Much has been made of the cord-cutting phenomenon, brought on by an increasing adoption of over-the-top (OTT) video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant. But worldwide, the pay-TV market still generated $257 billion in 2014, reaching 923.5 million subscribers.

According to ABI Research, the market is actually expanding at the slow but steady clip of 4 percent CAGR. By 2020, revenue growth is expected to ebb to a 2.7 percent CAGR, but global subs will surpass the 1.1 billion mark.

The single-digit growth in revenue belies actual subscriber behavior, however. “Despite the growth in subscriber base [in 2014], weak currency exchange rates resulted in a slower increase of pay-TV market service revenue,” said Jake Saunders, vice president and practice director of Core Forecasting at ABI.

For the year, cable and terrestrial TV markets had weaker growth rates in 2014 compared to satellite and IPTV platforms—continuing a trend that has been in place for years.

Regionally speaking, in the fourth quarter of 2014, U.S. cable operators lost roughly 100,000 subscribers. That said, market leader Comcast gained 7,000 subscribers in the period—a notable turnaround for the company. The country’s largest satellite TV provider, DirecTV, in contrast gained 149,000 subscribers, logging its highest net addition since 2012.

Image via Shutterstock

In 2020, the U.S. market is expected to generate $313 billion service revenues.

Globally, there are some notable market high points.

High definition (HD) penetration is increasing across all pay-TV platforms because of the increasing number of HD channels added by operators. In 2014, 44 percent of the worldwide pay TV subscriber base were HD subscribers, with the highest HD penetration in Western Europe and North America. HD penetration is expected to reach 60 percent of the total pay TV market in 2020.

Pay TV operators are also now moving toward 4K or Ultra HD service. In November, U.S. satellite operator DirecTV launched its first 4K programming without any additional monthly charges to subscribers with its HD DVR, Genie and DirecTV 4K Ready television set, which is any of Samsung’s Smart 4K TV models. Online video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon also started to offer 4K content in late 2014. When content availability and 4K TV set adoption increase, 4K services are likely to become a differentiator for pay TV service providers, ABI predicted.

These kinds of trends are critical for operators going forward. “As competition in the pay-TV market increases, quality of content, innovations and service pricing are among the important factors for pay-TV operators to maintain customer base,” said Khin Sandi Lynn, industry analyst at ABI. 

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