Three of the four major live streaming services in the U.S. have reported their earnings for the third quarter, and the results are pretty clear: YouTube TV (probably) still leads the pack — and by a healthy margin. We have to hedge that just a tad because Google doesn’t give regular updates on streaming statistics, unlike the other parent companies at play here.
But with that said, here’s how things break down:
- YouTube TV last reported having more than 5 million subscribers in the middle of 2022. While it hasn’t given an update since then, Google did say in its Q3 earnings call that there was “YouTube non-advertising revenue driven by subscriber growth in YouTube TV” on the back of NFL Sunday Ticket moving to the service. So we know it’s growing. We just have no idea how much.
- Hulu With Live TV is firmly in second place at 4.6 million subscribers as of the end of parent company Disney’s fiscal year. (Which ended on September 30.) That’s only 100,000 off its high for the fiscal year, but it did add 300,000 subs in the third quarter.
- Sling TV remains in third at 2.12 million subscribers. That’s basically the same number of subscribers has had since the beginning of 2018, never climbing higher than 2.6 million subscribers in that time period. It’s been slowly trending down since then.
- Fubo is the dark horse in this conversation. Its numbers can fluctuate a bit depending on the quarter because a good bit of its attraction has to do with sports, but it’s essentially grown by 5 times since the end of 2019.
And one other mention here: ESPN+. It’s not in the same category as the services mentioned above. They’re known as MPVDs, for multi-platform video distributors — basically the streaming version of what you’d get from a cable company. ESPN+ closed Disney’s fiscal year at 26 million subscribers, up 5.7 million subs for the year, and up about 8.9 million over two years. It’s full of on-demand content but also is full of live sports that can’t be watched anywhere else.
What does all that mean? Not a whole lot, actually, except to say that the two services that are showing significant growth — YouTube TV and Fubo — tend to add features and adjust their businesses as necessary. Hulu With Live TV is still growing overall, just much more slowly. And all the services have one thing in common: Price increases. (Mostly. Fubo actually just lowered the cost of one of its tiers.)
None of that changes the only things that matter: Does a service have the channels you want? And does it have a price you’re willing to pay? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then you should try another service. And if none of them does the trick for you? (Or if you just can’t handle the occasional streaming hiccup?) There’s always a good, old-fashioned antenna.