Global Pay TV Subscriptions will surpass 1.1 billion in 2020, with 4K ascending too

by on March 26, 2015

Stephan Jukic – March 26, 2015

According to a recent study conducted by market analysis firm ABI Research, the worldwide Pay TV subscriber market grew by a steady 4% in 2014 and by year’s end reached a total of 923.5 million users.

This was achieved despite weak currency exchange rates causing a slower increase of Pay TV market service revenues although on the other side, the increased subscriber numbers also failed to boost said revenues as much as they could have. Nonetheless, the worldwide Pay TV market generated roughly $257 billion in revenues in 2014 and is now expected to surpass 1.1 billion subscribers by 2020 thanks to a predicted compounded annual growth rate of 7% over the next 5 years. This is the latest reported by ABI and Jake Suanders, VP and Practice Director of Core Forecasting at the company.

On the other hand, terrestrial TV and cable TV markets had slower growth in the previous year when compared to satellite and IPTV platforms. At the same time, high definition penetration is growing across all types of Pay TV platforms thanks to a growing number of HD channels that have been added by operators of different Pay TV services.

And HD is definitely a major component of Pay TV. In 2014, 44% of all these pay TV subscribers were receiving their content in HD format with the highest percentages of penetration in Western Europe and North America. This figure is also expected to surpass 60% in 2020. That is to say that 60 or more of all Pay TV subscriptions will be HD in resolution, particularly as worldwide internet connectivity speeds increase.

Now we arrive at the real rising star of the entire Pay TV future, whether it’s delivered via satellite, internet or even cable connection. This of course is 4K ultra HD and while the resolution currently takes up only a tiny fraction of any Pay TV content in any form, the operators in the industry are sniffing the wind and moving in the direction of ultra HD services.

We’re still looking only at baby steps in this area of development but new entertainment technologies often have a surprising way of very quickly leaping forward into widespread adoption. For example, Just this past November, satellite TV operator DirecTV launched its first 4K programming without charging their subscribers anything extra for receiving it as long as they have one of the company’s Genie HD DVR media players and  Samsung 4K TV from 2014 or late 2013. Now, the company has also already launched two new satellites into orbit and at least one of these will be dedicated to beaming a much wider selection of 4K content down to a wider base of subscribers as of late 2015 according to certain sources.

Amazon Prime Instant Video 4K ultra HD

4K streaming services like Amazon Prime are well ahead of conventional Pay TV broadcast services in the rising 4K content landscape

Furthermore, streaming providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime are way ahead of the game when it comes to 4K Pay TV. They’ve been beaming content since early to late 2014 respectively and their streaming model of 4K and HD content is likely to become a major differentiator for Pay TV service providers across the board.

Thus, while ABI predicts 1.1 billion Pay TV subscribers in 2020, 660 million of them having HD subscriptions, the actual figures could be much larger on both counts and the market share of 4K content might deliver some surprising levels of growth too.

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