Pay-TV’s Silver Linings Playbook: Broadband

With pay-TV distributors continuing to hemorrhage subscribers by the boatload, the growing void is being supplanted by a burgeoning new market: high-speed Internet — a prerequisite to over-the-top video consumption.

The largest cable and telephone providers in the U.S. — representing about 96% of the market — added more than 1.16 million broadband Internet subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That’s up from a gain of about 955,000 subs in previous-year period, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group.

Broadband additions in the quarter were 122% of those in Q1 2019 — the most in any quarter since Q1 2015. Broadband providers now account for about 102.4 million subscribers, with cable distributors accounting for 69.2 million broadband subs, followed by telecoms with 33.2 million subs.

Over the past year, there were about 2.75 million broadband additions — compared with about 2.63 million net broadband adds over the prior year

The top cable companies added about 1.23 million broadband subs in the quarter — 132% of the net adds for the top cable companies in Q1 2019. Cable broadband net additions were the most in any quarter since Q1 2007.

Telecom companies had a net loss of about 65,000 broadband subs in the quarter, compared with a net gain of about 20,000 subs in Q1 2019.

“With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there were more quarterly net broadband additions in Q1 than in any quarter in five years,” Bruce Leichtman, principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said in a statement. “Top cable companies performed particularly well, having the most net additions for cable broadband services in any quarter in 13 years.”

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