Now, the media tables are finally turning. Companies like Comcast, Charter and others are adding fewer broadband customers. This reflects their other business: video.
At the outset of the cord-cutting era, consumers bought a slimmed-down traditional pay TV service, adding not-so-original virtual pay TV systems -- owned by cable TV operators for the most part. Consumers believed they could get away with a Roku box and a couple of individual premium streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu and others.
Media analysts were concerned about these companies, as all this still needed a strong broadband connection -- something major cable operations sank their teeth into years ago.
In the end, those companies continued to get paid -- by consumers and others -- for that TV and video content, as well as hosting other digital media services that needed that connection including Roku, Netflix, Sling TV and others.
Now, with broadband saturation just around the corner, where do companies go from here?
Many have moved into wireless-mobile phone services. Others believe they can build a better set-top-box/smart TV interface platform for their streaming businesses, all to give Roku or Amazon Fire TV a run for their money. Comcast is one of them.
Gone are the days of traditional vertical media integration -- something Comcast initially struggled with at NBCUniversal -- and now thrives on.
But that doesn’t mean other opportunities don’t exist -- perhaps just not when a company controls multiple parts of a revenue chain, such as entertainment TV network/station platforms, advertising, content creation, and, now direct-to-consumer businesses.
Over the past years, Verizon slipped away from media-inventory ownership. More recently, and with much bigger headlines, AT&T realized that having a controlling/operating stake in a major movie TV studio -- WarnerMedia -- isn’t a good idea. Throw in DirecTV as well.
That said, owning a minority stake in companies -- allowing more experienced entertainment professionals to run the business -- seems to be a viable path for some.
This isn't to say broadband can't be a moneymaker for many years to come for once cable TV-centric companies. Price increases, coupled with better 5G broadband speeds, are just one area of growth.
The metaverse? Social media acquisitions? Online gaming? Take your pick.
The media business refuses -- for the most part -- to stay still.