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Cord Cutting Accelerates in 1Q 2021

The largest traditional cable providers collectively lost over 1.6 million customers in the first quarter of 2021 – an overall loss of 2.2% of customers. To put the quarter’s loss into perspective, the big cable providers lost almost 18 thousand 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 first quarter subscriber numbers compared to the end of the 2020:

1Q 2021 4Q 2020 Change % Change
Comcast 19,355,000 19,846,000 (491,000) -2.5%
Charter 16,062,000 16,200,000 (138,000) -0.9%
AT&T 15,885,000 16,505,000 (620,000) -3.8%
Dish TV 8,686,000 8,816,000 (130,000) -1.5%
Verizon 3,845,000 3,927,000 (82,000) -2.1%
Cox 3,590,000 3,650,000 (60,000) -1.6%
Altice 2,906,600 2,961,000 (54,400) -1.8%
Mediacom 626,000 643,000 (17,000) -2.6%
Frontier 453,000 485,000 (32,000) -6.6%
Atlantic Broadband 313,591 318,387 (4,796) -1.5%
Cable One 252,000 261,000 (9,000) -3.4%
     
Total 71,974,191 73,612,387 (1,638,196) -2.2%
Total Cable 43,105,191 43,879,387 (774,196) -1.8%
Total Other 28,869,000 29,733,000 (864,000) -2.9%

 

Some observations about the numbers:

  • The big loser continued to be AT&T, which lost a net of 620,000 traditional video customers between DirecTV and AT&T TV. In the second quarter of this year AT&T spun these customers all off to a corporation.
  • The big percentage loser continues to be Frontier which lost 6.6% of its cable customers in the quarter.
  • Big customer losses finally hit to Comcast, which lost 491,000 traditional cable customers in a quarter where it added 460,000 broadband customers.
  • Charter continues to lose cable customers at a slower pace than the rest of the industry. I have to wonder if this means bundles that hard to break or some similar issue.
  • This is the ninth consecutive quarter that the industry lost over one million cable subscribers.

To put these losses into perspective, these same companies had over 85.4 million cable customers at the end of 2018 and 79.5 million by the end of 2019. That’s a loss of 13 million customers (16% of customers) since the end of 2018.

The big losses in cable subscribers happened at the same time that the biggest ISPs in the country are adding a lot of broadband customers. The biggest ISPs added over 1 million new broadband subscribers in the first quarter of 2021.

In 2020, we saw that a lot of customers dropping traditional video were switching to online versions of the full cable line-up. That didn’t carry into the first quarter of 2021 where the combination of Hulu plus Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV, and FuboTV collectively lost over 257,000 customers. I have to suspect that has to do with affordability.

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