Comcast Loses Nearly 500,000 Q3 Pay-TV Subs as Broadband Sub Losses Continue

Comcast Oct. 26 reported a loss of 490,000 cable television subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. The nation’s largest cable operator lost 561,000 subscribers in the previous-year period. Comcast ended the quarter with 14.495 million cable subscribers, down more than 2 million subs from the prior-year period.

The cable subscriber losses reflect ongoing secular changes in home entertainment, which continue to see consumers dropping linear pay-TV service for alternative digital distribution channels.

Meanwhile, Comcast’s ability to offset cable TV sub losses with high-speed internet subscriber gains continues to lose steam.

The nation’s largest internet service provider (ISP) saw a loss of 18,000 broadband subs in the quarter, compared with a gain of 19,000 subs in the previous-year period. Comcast ended the quarter with 32.28 million broadband subs, which includes 2.5 million business customers. That is down 55,000 subs from the same fiscal period last year.

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Comcast Expands Q1 Video Subscriber Loss to 614,000 as Broadband Sub Growth Cools

Comcast April 27 disclosed it lost 614,000 Xfinity video subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31). That is up 20% from a subscriber loss of 512,000 during the previous-year period. The cable operator ended the quarter with 15.5 million subscribers, down more than 2.1 million subs from 17.6 million during the prior-year period.

Notably, high-speed internet subscriber growth cooled significantly, with the nation’s largest ISP adding just 5,000 broadband subscribers in the quarter, down from 264,000 subscriber additions in the prior-year period. Comcast ended the quarter with 32.324 million broadband subs, from 32.32 million in the previous-year period.

Fewer new broadband subs didn’t negatively impact revenue growth, as the average monthly data use per broadband subscriber reached nearly 700 gigabytes, and drove broadband revenue growth 4.8% to $6.3 billion from $6 billion in the prior-year period.

Speaking on the fiscal call, Mike Cavanagh, named president of NBCUniversal in the wake of the abrupt firing of Jeff Shell following his inappropriate workplace relationship, said that while adding broadband subs in immediate future would be a challenge due to the macro economic environment, he fully expects to return to normal subscriber growth in the long-term.

“We have the best hand out there to win against all the competing technologies, whether its fiber or its wireless,” said Cavanagh, who remains president of Comcast Corp., while adding that more 100 million people engage with Comcast content across its distribution channels every month.

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Comcast Lost 2 Million Pay-TV Subscribers in 2022, Broadband Sub Growth Cools

Comcast’s legacy cable pay-TV business continued an industrywide trend, losing 2 million subscribers in 2022, up from a loss of 1.66 million subs in 2021. The company ended last year with 16.1 million pay-TV subs, which was down about 11% from 18.2 million subs at the end of 2021.

The pay-TV subscriber losses underscore consumers’ ongoing migration from linear TV to alternative video distribution such as Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu and Peacock, among others, and free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) platforms.

To help deliver streaming video to consumer households requires high-speed internet service, or broadband. Comcast remains the nation’s largest internet service provider, ending 2022 with more than 32.1 million broadband subscribers.

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At same time, that tally underscored a cooling off of broadband sub growth. The company actually lost 26,000 high-speed internet subs in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2022). That compared with a gain of 212,000 broadband subs in the previous-year period. Comcast attributed the sub losses to the impact of Hurricane Ian in Florida last September.

For the fiscal year, Comcast added 250,000 broadband subs, down 81% from a gain of 1.33 million subs in 2021.

The decline in video subscribers helped lower Q4 programming expenses almost 6% in the quarter, partially offset by contractual rate increases. Programming expenses dipped 2.8% for the fiscal year.

Comcast Lost 1.52 Million Video Subs Through September as Broadband Growth Stalls

Comcast Cable continues to lose pay-TV subscribers in bunches. The nation’s No. 1 pay-TV operator said it lost 540,000 subs in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That’s up more than 40% from a loss of 383,000 subs in the previous-year period. Through nine months of the fiscal year, Comcast has shed more than 1.52 million video subs, up more than 32% from a loss of 1.15 million in fiscal 2021.

The cabler ended the period with 16.6 million subscribers, down 11% from 18.5 million subs in 2021.

Meanwhile, Comcast, like other pay-TV operators, continues to offset video subscriber losses with gains in high-speed, or broadband customers. That trend slowed significantly in the quarter as Comcast added just 10,000 residential broadband subs compared with 281,000 subs in the previous-year period. The company added 5,000 business subscribers, down from 19,000 last year.

From January through September, Comcast added 253,000 residential broadband subs and 24,000 business subs. That’s down significantly compared with the addition of more than 1 million residential subs and 54,000 business customers in the same period a year earlier.

The company ended the quarter with more than 32.1 million broadband subs, up 1.5% from 31.6 million in 2021.

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Charter CEO Upbeat on Comcast Streaming Video Joint Venture

Charter Communications chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge has high hopes for the upcoming joint venture Charter and Comcast Cable announced in April.

The JV is aimed at offering video app developers, streamers, retailers, operators, and hardware manufacturers a platform to better reach their customers in major markets across the country.

Comcast would license Flex, its aggregated streaming platform and hardware to the joint venture, XClass TVs, the company’s branded smart-TV platform and include Xumo, the ad-supported streaming service it acquired in 2020. Charter is funding the venture with $900 million over multiple years.

With a marketing mindset, “build it and they will come,” Charter and Comcast contend third-party content distributors would have access to a larger retail footprint — in exchange for a fee and share of advertising revenue.

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge

Speaking at  a Sept. 14 Goldman Sachs + Technology confab in San Francisco, Rutledge said the joint venture gives the companies an opportunity to monetize video and create an advertising and transaction business that directs consumers to content and media companies get more customers.

Of course, delivering the platforms to end-users requires high-speed internet, which both Charter and Comcast dominate the market.

“We’ll make further investments to drive advertisers and conveyors of content and have us sell their content on that platform,” Rutledge said. “So, yeah, we’re going to deploy that.”

Charter and Comcast combined have more than 62 million broadband subscribers, accounting for more than 66% market share. The companies have more than 35 million combined pay-TV subscribers.

“If you want to have a job, you need broadband. If you want to be entertained, you need broadband,” Rutledge said, adding that high-speed internet is almost inflation proof.

“If you think about all the things, you could spend your money on if you don’t have very much, [high-speed internet] is the best value there is,” he said. “And we can make it even more valuable. I’m not really worried about our ability to interact with consumers and to grow in a negative market environment.”

Rutledge said voluntary subscriber churn (customers who do not renew service) is still “incredibly” low.

“It’s well below historic norms. Consumers still have money and unemployment is still low. I think our ability to sell to consumers will still be good. That said, we’ll still do rate increases,” he said.

Comcast Cable Loses 521,000 Video Subs in Q2, 1 Million Through Six Months

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV operator, continues to hemorrhage video subscribers. The Philadelphia-based operator July 28 announced it lost 521,000 video subs in the second quarter (ended June 30). That was up 30% from a loss of 399,000 video subs in the previous-year quarter.

Through six months of the fiscal year, Comcast has lost more than 1 million video subs as consumers drop pay-TV in favor of alternative video entertainment options such as subscription and ad-supported video-on-demand. The company lost 889,000 video subs in the prior-year period.

CEO Brian Roberts

Comcast ended the quarter with more than 17.1 million video subs, down about 10% from more than 18.9 million subs last year.

Saving the day again — sort of — was high-speed internet. Comcast added 262,000 board band subs through six months of the fiscal year, which was down 68% from last year. Comcast added no broadband subs in the second quarter compared with the net addition of 354,000 high-speed internet subs last year.

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While subscribers decline, Comcast Communications revenue is going the opposite direction — thanks to rate increases. Revenue in Q2 increased 3.7% to $16.6 billion, driven by increases in broadband, business services, wireless, and advertising revenue, partially offset by decreases in video, voice, and other revenue. Broadband revenue increased 6.8% due to an increase in average rates and an increase in the number of residential broadband customers compared to the prior year period. Business services revenue increased 10.1% due to an increase in average rates, an increase in the number of customers receiving our services, and from a recent acquisition.

Despite the negative trends in Comcast’s legacy business, CEO Brian Roberts attempted to put a positive spin on the numbers.

“We achieved our highest adjusted [pre-tax] margin on record even amid a unique and evolving macroeconomic environment that is temporarily putting pressure on the volume of our new customer connects,” Roberts said in a statement.

AMC Networks, Comcast Reach New Multiyear Distribution Agreement — That Includes Streaming

AMC Networks and Comcast Cable Jan. 31 announced a new multiyear distribution agreement that includes continued carriage of AMC Networks’ linear networks and expanded availability of its targeted streaming services (Acorn TV, AMC+, etc.) to Xfinity TV and broadband customers. AMC+ was first launched to Xfinity customers in the summer of 2020 and has grown rapidly since.

“We are excited to continue and also expand our longstanding partnership with Comcast through a new agreement that includes not only continued carriage of our cable networks, but also our fast-growing targeted streaming services,” Josh Reader, president of distribution and development for AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Reader said 2022 would be the biggest year of original programming in AMC’s history with final seasons of “The Walking Dead” — the highest-rated series in the history of cable television — “Killing Eve” and “Better Call Saul.” The year will also feature a wide array of new series, including the courtroom drama “61st Street,” “Dark Winds,” “Tales of the Walking Dead,” “Moonhaven” and the first two series in an Anne Rice universe, “Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” and “Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches.”

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Comcast Lost 1.5 Million Cable Subscribers in 2021

Comcast Cable Jan. 27 reported a loss of 1.49 million pay-TV subscribers in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021. That compared with a subscriber loss of 1.29 million in 2020. The cabler lost 349,000 subs in the fourth quarter, up 53% from a sub loss of 227,000 in the previous-year period. Comcast ended 2021 with 17.5 million pay-TV subs, down from 18.9 million in 2020.

On the flipside, Comcast continues to grow its high-speed internet market share, ending the year with 29.5 million broadband subscribers. That’s up 4.4% from 28.3 million subs in 2020. Broadband is a requisite conduit to distribute streaming video in subscriber households.

For the year, cable revenue increased 7.1% compared to 2020 to $64.3 billion, driven by growth in broadband, wireless, business services, advertising, video and other revenue, partially offset by a decrease in voice (i.e., telecom) revenue.

“Our top priority is increasing the capacity of our network in the U.S. and further improving our world-class broadband experience,” Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “[Our] strong operating and financial performance in 2021 was underscored by our highest full-year revenue, [pre-tax earnings] and free cash flow on record. We continue to execute extraordinarily well, strengthening our leadership position in connectivity, aggregation, and streaming.”

Comcast Ups Q3 Cable Sub Loss to 382,000

Comcast Cable Oct. 28 reported it lost 382,000 legacy pay-TV subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That is up more than 50% from a sub loss of 253,000 during the previous-year period. Comcast ended the period with 17.8 million video subs, down from 19.2 million a year ago.

The declines reflect ongoing secular declines in pay-TV as consumers migrate to over-the-top video platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

The nation’s largest cable operator has lost more than 1.1 million pay-TV subs in 2021 since Jan. 1, excluding the loss of 147,000 retail subscribers. That’s up from 1 million in the previous-year period.

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On the positive side, Comcast is one of the biggest ISPs in the world — the lifeline for streaming video delivered into the home. The company added 281,000 high-speed internet subscribers, to end the period with 29.3 million subs. That’s up more than 5% from 27.8 million broadband subs last year. Comcast has another 2.3 million business broadband subscribers.

Comcast Cable Q2 Sub Loss Cools, Broadband Gain Skyrockets

As expected, Comcast Cable, the nation’s largest pay-TV operator, saw continued consumer migration away from linear television to over-the-top video distribution. The cabler said it lost 399,000 residential and business video subscribers in the second quarter, ended June 30, to finish the period with more than 18.9 million subs. That compared with a sub loss of 477,000 during the previous-year period, ending at 20.3 million total subs.

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Year-to-date sub losses top 889,000, which is par with 887,000 sub loss in the previous-year period.

On the flip side, Comcast added 354,000 high-speed Internet subs, ending the quarter with 31.3 million subs. That compared with a gain of 323,000 subs and 29.4 million broadband subs in the previous-year period. Year-to-date, Comcast has added 814,000 broadband subs compared with 800,000 additions last year.

Cable revenue increased 14.5% to $7.1 billion in the quarter of 2021, reflecting higher revenue, partially offset by an 8.2% increase in operating expenses largely due to the return of live sports events.

“At cable, our performance was exceptional, highlighted by 11% revenue and 15% [adjusted pre-tax earnings] growth, the best broadband and total customer relationship net additions on record for a second quarter,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement.