Direct to Home Satellite TV (DTH) Subscriber Drops on Pace to Accelerate, Rethink Research Says

Direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV subscriber falls will accelerate and spread from North America to Europe --and eventually to the Far East, according to a new report from Rethink Technology Research’s Rethink TV service.

Rethink Research logo.png

Rethink’s report, “Who Benefits as Global DTH Revenue Set to Shed $ Billions - Forecast to 2024,” noted that even where subscriber numbers are on the rise, there will be falls in average revenue per user (ARPU).

The decline in DTH will turn out to be terminal, and yet it all began when cable TV began to churn around 2010, a story which spread to the US satellite operators a few years later. Today the exodus is gathering speed and starting to spread to Europe, leaving operators scrambling to mop up their departing customers via the life rafts of low-ARPU, over-the-top (OTT) services.

This makes it impossible to maintain existing high ARPUs at historical levels, and the wheels have just come off for AT&T in the US as DirecTV Now, its stand-alone OTT service, is seen as an alternative to the main DTH service. Both have now been losing subs after initial gains and investors are starting to ask if this is a permanent trend.

What is still true is that DTH continues to thrive where there are no competitive alternatives for premium content, or where one operator has hogged the most sought-after sports rights.

And in some parts of the world, DTH continues to provide an engine of growth for pay TV – but only in developing markets and only for a short while longer, notably India. Latin America, with its artificially high pay TV ARPU looks less like India and more like the US and sustaining ARPU there will be a thankless challenge.

DTH saw rapid growth in pay TV until 2014 in Latin America, on the back of an expanding middle class in key markets. Now it is set for a period of decline and falling ARPU as OTT services continue to take off there and provide a direct threat.

In Europe, the picture is more mixed, with the decline well advanced for some operators such as France’s Canal+, whose base will be halved by 2024 from 2018. Some Eastern European markets have profiles more like developing countries, most notably Cyfrowy Polsat in Poland, set to continue gaining subs for at least the next few years.  However, even these operators will run out of rope towards the end of the forecast.

In Asia Pacific, DTH subscriber growth will be sustained throughout the period but with signs of flattening later around 2024. We anticipate some Asia Pac operators that are still growing subs now will reach a turning point during the forecast period with decline setting in just before 2024.

Squaring all the regions together there is still a global rise in DTH numbers, but this will come to an end during 2020, and move on to an accelerating decline as more and more DTH operators in Asia Pacific pass their summit.

(For more information visit