The Most Incredible Cable TV Subscribers Statistics for 2020

by Bobby Chernev | April 11, 2019

Satellite and digital cable were huge in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, they were one of the most common sources for news and entertainment around the world. But:

Recent technological advances, such as on-demand streaming services, have challenged pay TV’s place in the market. Many consumers have even chosen to cut their pay TV subscriptions altogether.

However, cable TV isn’t dead just yet. Let’s have a look at some:

Fascinating Cable TV Subscribers Statistics

  • 44% of American households subscribe to a cable service in 2019.
  • The US has 1,775 total television stations and about 5,200 cable systems run by 660 operators, reaching 90% of the entire population.
  • In 2018, there were 33 million people in the US who had canceled their pay-TV subscription at some point.
  • In 2018, TV services like cable had recently lost one million subscribers.
  • In 2019, 62% of adults in the US were subscribed to a streaming service.
  • In December 2018, 60% of American adults had someone in their household with a current Netflix subscription.
  • In 2018, Comcast accounted for 23.6% of the pay TV market in the US.

Key US Stats

Alright, let’s start. Have you ever wondered what percentage of american households have cable TV?

1. 44% of American households subscribe to cable service in 2019.

(Source: Statista)

You might have expected a higher percentage, but cord cutting is taking its toll.

Then, there’s more:

A considerable number of people simply like to watch their local news, traffic, and weather channels. You can get those free of charge with an antenna. And some of them can be pretty good. So, if you were wondering:

“Is TV dying?” The answer is no.

Let’s take WETA 26 in the Greater Washington area as an example. This local PBS affiliate features some top-tier primetime and entertainment programs. Its sister channel, WETA UK, broadcasts British shows, while WETA Kids keeps the little ones happy. So, whether you’re after Washington Week, Midsomer Murders, or Pinkalicious & Peterrific – they’ve got you covered!

Clearly, the quality of local TV channels has an effect on how many Americans have cable.   

2. In 2019, the US has a total of 1,775 television stations.

(Source: NCTA)

You read that right – there are a lot of stations out there. What’s more, there are about 5,200 cable systems, run by 660 operators, reaching 90% of the entire population.

However, more and more people are looking for greener pastures.

3. In 2018, there were 33 million people in the US who had canceled their pay-TV subscription at some point.

(Source: Variety)

Cutting the cord was on the rise in 2018, showing a 32.8% increase from 2017. With streaming services like Hulu and Netflix gaining in popularity, more and more people are tempted to cut the cord.


There are many reasons people do this. Most are motivated by the opportunity to save money, control their TV experience – or simply to have more programming choices. According to cable cord-cutting subscribers statistics for 2018, the average viewer in the US can save up to $104 per month by taking the plunge.

Alright, but if you’re still not convinced online streaming is for you, which provider should you choose?

4. In 2018, Comcast accounted for 23.6% of the paid TV market in the US.

(Source: Statista)

DirecTV had 21.5% of the market share. The industry is dominated by a few large companies (AT & T, Comcast, Charter, Dish Network, Verizon, and Altice USA). These top cable providers in 2018, also known as the big six, had 81.71 million subscribers in the last quarter of the year. To stay competitive, many of them are now bundling internet and phone services.

For instance:

Comcast earns a significant portion of its revenue from high-speed internet, business services, and voice options. Getting all this in a single convenient package is attractive to customers, as television industry statistics point out.

As a result,  big companies are losing subscribers at an alarming rate. That’s why they have no choice but to enter the market. Any additional profits they get may be nice, but make no mistake – this is also their only way to survive.

5. TV services like cable lost one million subscribers in the third quarter of 2018.

(Source: Fortune)

Another 94,000 subscribers dropped their telco TV packages at this time. Verizon witnessed the biggest decline, losing roughly 63,000 subscribers. This is among the most defining trends in the cable TV industry.

To further pile on the pressure for the big six:

6. In 2019, 62% of adults in the US were subsribed to a streaming service.

(Source: Statista)

Millennials and digital natives prefer their devices over the old-fashioned TV set. They’re often on the move, and convenience is key. In contrast, older people are more likely to keep their cable subscription because it’s what they’re familiar and comfortable with.

7. In September 2019, only 29% of American adults had never subsribed to a streaming service.

(Source: Statista)

Interested in streaming vs cable statistics? This one’s for you.

As you can see, the proverbial “Netflix and chill” is as hip as ever. While the company began as a DVD rental service similar to Blockbuster, it quickly transitioned to online streaming.

The introduction of Netflix Originals – new shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black – further boosted its popularity.

8. In 2016, United States cable and pay TV providers generated an estimated $52 million from advertising and program revenue.

(Source: Statista)

They added a further $26.2 million from air time revenue. A lot of this comes from ads aired during sports events, such as the Superbowl and the US Open tennis tournament.

More US Statistics

Before we head to the other side of the pond and see how Europe is doing, let’s examine a few more stats from the US.

9. In 2016, cable industry subscriptions in the US were worth $81 billion.

(Source: Statista)

That figure is up from $4.5 billion in 1980, according to cable TV subscribers statistics. However, providers have witnessed a steady decline in revenue over the last few years. The industry reached a peak of $99 billion in 2013.

10. FOX News dominated in both the primetime slot and total day viewers in 2018, averaging around 2.8 million primetime viewers.

(Source: FOX News)

This is another fascinating tidbit for those interested in cable companies market share statistics. FOX’s figure was more than twice that of its closest news competitor, CNN. MSNBC came third. In general, viewers are most attracted to sporting events and awards ceremonies. FOX generated around 111 million viewers during the 2017 Superbowl, when the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons.

11. FOX News was the leading cable network in the US in March 2019, with 1.392 million total day viewers.

(Source: Statista)

This is further proof of FOX’s dominance. According to cable TV statistics, MSNBC was second, with 1.029 million, and Nickelodeon came third, with 788,000.

12. In 2018, about 147.5 million Americans watched Netflix at least once per month.

(Source: Variety)

This is huge:

Netflix is the most popular streaming service by far, followed by Amazon Prime Video with 88.7 million, Hulu with 55 million, HBO Now with 17.1 million, and Dish’s Sling TV with 6.8 million.  

Small wonder cable TV subscribers statistics for 2018 are so bleak.

Just like Netflix, all these streaming services offer original programs. So, if you’re a fan of fantasy, you’re probably watching Game of Thrones on HBO. Gearheads, on the other hand, will be tuning in to The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime Video. It’s 2019, and we’re spoilt for choice.

13. In 2018, the total revenue of Netflix amounted to around $15.79 billion. In 2019’s Q3 alone, the streaming giant reached $5.2 billion.

(Source: Statista, Statista)

This is a crucial stat, which highlights the stratospheric rise of Netflix and helps explain the dwindling number of cable TV subscribers. Its revenue was 1.36 billion a decade ago. In 2018, this number was at $15.79 billion.

Netflix also employed 7,100 people all over the world. Clearly, it’s going from strength to strength.

14. 70% of pay-TV subscribers feel they get too little value for their money.

(Source: Variety)

Streaming vs cable statistics show price is the leading factor fuelling cord-cutting. About 56% of current pay-TV customers say they keep their subscription because it’s bundled with their home broadband.

15. By 2021, roughly 51 million Americans won’t have cable or satellite TV subscriptions.

(Source: Fortune)

Newer, cheaper television subscription plans are now surfacing. Dish Network’s Sling TV and YouTube are a prime reason for cable television decline.

16. The number of US consumers subscribed to pay TV decreased from 73% to 67% in 2018.

(Source: BGR)

Netflix usage surpassed cable and satellite for the first time, with 76%. Everyone knew this was inevitable, even the big six. And the revenue streaming services generate is mouthwatering :

17. Americans spent an estimated $2 billion a month in 2018 on streaming video services.

(Source: Variety)

What’s more, 55% of US households had subscriptions to at least one video-streaming service in 2018. That figure was up from 10% in 2009.

The Rest of the World

The stats thus far paint a clear picture of how cable TV subscribers statistics shape up in the US. But what about the rest of the world? Let’s have a quick look at Europe first:

18. There will be 78 million digital pay TV homes in Eastern Europe by 2023.

(Source: Statista)

This number was at 25.5 million in 2010, so we have a clear upward trend. In fact, the situation is the opposite of that in the US. Eastern Europe is still a growing market. But:

Who’s Europe’s leading pay TV operator?

19. Sky Europe is expected to have a customer base of nearly 15 million subscribers by 2023.

(Source: Statista)

This is up from approximately 10.4 million in 2014.

Now – the Sky Sports channels have traditionally been most popular with viewers. Especially those interested in English Premier League soccer. What’s interesting is Sky Movies is catching up.

Overall, the number of cable subscribers by year is on the rise in Europe.

How about Latin America?

20. In 2018, pay TV revenue in Latin America amounted to approximately $18.2 billion dollars.

(Source: Statista)

What’s more, this figure is up from $5.82 billion in 2006. In 2018, 55.39% of people living in TV households had access to pay TV services.

Clearly, demand for pay TV is still strong across the region – just as it is in parts of Europe.

What’s New

You might be wondering if cable TV is dying. However, news of cable’s demise might be premature.

What’s more, some analysts even suggest a return to cable bundles might be just around the corner. How come?

Cable companies in the US figured out a long time ago that the easiest solution to a world with tons of paid channels is to bring them together into a more affordable bundle. Some companies will probably rediscover this idea, even as we proceed full steam into the streaming age.

That being said, the cable TV industry continues to be in perilous waters. Comcast lost 96,000 customers during the first quarter of 2018, its fourth straight quarter of subscriber losses. In 2019, it was losing over 2500 users every day. AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service lost 188,000 customers in the same period, which brought down video revenue by $660 million.

Wrapping up

So, what’s next for the industry? According to the latest cable TV subscribers statistics, North American revenues will continue to drop for the foreseeable future.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific are emerging as growing markets.

That being said, the industry will have to reinvent itself to survive. The brave new world of online streaming is just around the corner – especially in the US.


  1. Statista
  2. NCTA
  3. Variety
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  5. Fortune
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  10. FOX News
  11. Statista
  12. Variety
  13. Statista, Statista
  14. Variety
  15. Fortune
  16. BGR
  17. Variety
  18. Statista
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  20. Statista
Bobby Chernev
Bobby Chernev
Bobby Chernev, editor at A historian and political scientist by training, he is passionate about quality research and writing in different fields. He's also a general sports fan, a devotee of cask ale, and an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction.