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Traditional Cable Losses Slow in 2Q 2020

The largest traditional cable providers collectively lost almost 1.1 million customers in the third quarter of 2020 – an overall loss of 1.5% of customers. This is smaller than the loss in the second quarter of 1.5 million net customers. To put the quarter’s loss into perspective, the big cable providers lost 12,641 cable customers per day throughout the quarter.

The numbers below come from Leichtman Research Group which compiles these numbers from reports made to investors, except for Cox which is estimated. The numbers reported are for the largest cable providers, and Leichtman estimates that these companies represent 95% of all cable customers in the country.

Following is a comparison of the third quarter subscriber numbers compared to the end of the second quarter of 2020:

3Q 2020 2Q 2019 Change % Change
Comcast 20,094,000 20,367,000 (273,000) -1.3%
Charter 16,235,000 16,168,000 67,000 0.4%
DirecTV 13,600,000 14,290,000 (690,000) -4.8%
Dish TV 8,965,000 9,052,000 (87,000) -1.0%
Verizon 4,000,000 4,062,000 (62,000) -1.5%
Cox 3,710,000 3,770,000 (60,000) -1.6%
AT&T TV 3,500,000 3,400,000 100,000 2.9%
Altice 3,035,100 3,121,500 (86,400) -2.8%
Mediacom 663,000 676,000 (13,000) -1.9%
Frontier 518,000 560,000 (42,000) -7.5%
Atlantic Broadband 317,787 311,845 5,942 -1.9%
Cable One 277,000 290,000 (13,000) -4.5%
Total 74,914,887 76,068,345 (1,153,458) -1.5%
Total Cable 44,331,887 44,704,345 (372,458) -0.8%
Total Satellite 22,565,000 23,342,000 (777,000) -3.3%
Total Telco 7,696,000 8,082,000 (4,000) 0.0%

Some observations about the numbers:

  • The big loser is AT&T, which lost a net of 590,000 traditional video customers between DirecTV and AT&T TV (relabeled from AT&T U-verse). It’s worth noting that AT&T added 100,000 telco cable customers for the quarter.
  • The big percentage loser continues to be Frontier which lost 7.5% of its cable customers in the quarter.
  • Charter has gained cable customers for two quarters in a row. The company credits the gains to offering a lower-price package and also to a marketing campaign that is giving two months free of broadband to new customers during the pandemic. Charter has been beating the industry as a whole every quarter since Q3 2018.

The loss of traditional cable customers continues to mount at dizzying levels for the industry. This is the seventh consecutive quarter where the industry lost over one million cable subscribers. It’s especially worth noting that these losses happened during a quarter when the biggest ISPs gained over 1.5 million customers for the quarter.

One interesting thing to note is that people cutting the cord seem to be switching to online video sources that carry many of the same channels as traditional cable TV, In the third quarter the combination of Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, and AT&T TV Now, and fuboTV collectively added over one million customers for the quarter. This count doesn’t include YouTube TV or Philo which don’t report customers quarterly. The online industry pins the increases on the return of live sports. It’s worth noting that Hulu + Live TV would now rank as the fifth largest cable provider, ahead of Verizon.

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