Pay-TV players continue to report accelerated video subscriber losses in this year’s first quarter, with Comcast and Altice the latest to weigh in.
While increased cord-cutting has been a reality for years now due to the ongoing consumer shift from traditional linear to OTT, the operators must now also deal with the suspension of most major sports as of mid March due to the pandemic. Live sports coverage is both a major driver of cable subscriptions and the largest contributor to the costs of cable TV bundles.
While Comcast added more broadband customers in the quarter than at any time in 12 years (paid customers were up by 477,000), it saw net residential cable TV subscribers drop by 388,000, versus a 107,000 loss in Q1 2019. That brought its total residential subscribers down to 19.9 million.
Comcast also lost 22,000 U.S. business video subscribers during the quarter. And in Europe, its Sky pay-TV unit’s total customers declined by 65,000, to 23.9 million—a loss the company attributed to the sports events postponements and the suspension of some channels due to COVID-19.
This was Comcast’s twelfth consecutive quarter of cable subscriber losses. Last year, it lost a total of 732,000 net cable customers, ending the year with a total of 21,254,000, according to Leichtman Research.
However, Comcast’s consolidated cable segment revenues rose 4.5%, to $14.9 billion, due largely to revenue increases in wireless (up 52.1%), internet (up 9.3%), and business services (up 8%).
Altice reported parallel trends.
The company lost 42,000 net video subscribers — up from a loss of 10,000 in the year-ago quarter — to end Q1 2020 with 3.14 million residential video customers.
Last year, it lost 106,900 video subscribers, ending the year with a total of 3,179,200.
But Altice also reported record quarterly net broadband gains: up 60,000 (including 10,000 Altice Advantage low-income broadband subs).
Altice said its total residential customers across platforms grew 0.6%. Residential revenue per customer was flat at $143.39. Residential revenue rose 0.5% year over year.
Altice’s consolidated revenues were up 2.2% versus the year-ago quarter, to $2.45 billion, including 11.4% growth in ad revenue and 3.9% growth in business services revenue.
Net losses were $0.9 million, down from a $25 million loss in 2019’s first quarter.