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Cord cutting accelerates as pay TV loses 1 million customers in largest-ever quarterly loss

Scratch the theory that cord cutting might be decelerating.

Cable and satellite TV providers lost about 1.1 million subscribers during the July to September period, the largest quarterly loss ever – and the first time the industry lost more than 1 million subscribers in a quarter, according to media and telecommunications research firm MoffettNathanson.

After Dish Network reported its third-quarter earnings Wednesday, the New York-headquartered research firm tallied up the publicly reported subscriber losses to arrive at the finding.

Dish lost 341,000 subscribers in the third quarter, compared to adding 16,000 in the same period a year ago. Overall, Dish lost 367,000 satellite subscribers but added 26,000 Sling TV subscribers, the company said.

Rich Greenfield, a media and technology analyst with financial services firm BTIG in New York, arrived at a similar conclusion and called it “the third-worst quarter in industry history and worst since Q2 2016.”

That continues a worsening trend line for satellite TV providers. Two weeks ago, AT&T said DirecTV lost a net 297,000 subscribers during the quarter – 359,600 satellite subscribers departed, while it added 49,000 new subscribers to its streaming TV service DirecTV Now. Overall, AT&T has 25.15 million pay-TV customers; Directv, 19.6 million; U-Verse, 3.7 million; and DirecTV Now, 1.86 million.

Looking just at satellite TV departures, the industry lost 726,000 subscribers during the period. Telecom TV services, which includes AT&T’s U-Verse and Verizon FiOS, lost 104,000 customers combined.