A silver lining to pay-TV operators in the burgeoning over-the-top video ecosystem has been the the requisite need for high-speed Internet to stream Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Peacock into homes and on portable devices.
Comcast, the largest cable TV operator in the country, has seen its pay-TV subscriber base hemorrhage members — more than 1.5 million in 2020. At the same time, the cabler has added record numbers of broadband subs — 461,000 in the first quarter, ended March 31. It ended the period with more than 31 million broadband subs, compared with 19.3 million video subs.
Speaking May 12 on the virtual MoffettNathanson 8th Annual Media & Communications Summit, Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said the company has added more than 1 million high-speed Internet subs per year for the past 15 years — despite having 40% of its customer footprint beset with competing services.
“It’s a very competitive environment,” Watson said, adding that offering a variety of broadband options, including data speeds, to consumers helps.
“One of the things missed is that yes, most of [our] customers are 200 megabits and above, but we have a wide variety of options,” he said. “And we’ll compete in every segment we go up against.”
Watson said the $3.2 billion in broadband stimulus from the CARES Act available today for the first time for households affected by the pandemic would not have a material impact on Comcast’s connectivity business going forward.
The “Emergency Broadband Benefit” is a federal government program designed to help eligible households pay for higher speed Internet service during the COVID-19 crisis. The program could compete with Comcast’s signature digital equity initiative — Internet Essentials — the nation’s largest broadband adoption program. In 10 years, Comcast claims it has helped connect 10 million low-income Americans to high-speed internet at home, most for the very first time.
“We’re excited and have teams ready to take orders [for monthly service as low as $9.99, which includes a modem],” he said, adding that Comcast has redoubled efforts keeping public schools and libraries connected with broadband.
“We think it’s a good opportunity as well,” Watson said. “We’ll go where the customer wants to go.”