The Cable Market Continues to Erode 2Q 2021

The largest traditional cable providers collectively lost almost 1.3 million customers in the first quarter of 2021 – an overall loss of 1.8% of customers. To put the quarter’s loss into perspective, the big cable providers lost over 14 thousand cable customers per day throughout the quarter. The losses for the quarter were lower than the first quarter that had a net loss of 1.6 million customers. The industry is still on pace to lose roughly 6 million customers for the year.

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 are first quarter subscriber numbers compared to the end of the first quarter of 2021:

2Q 2021 Change % Change
Comcast 18,956,000 (399,000) -2.1%
Charter 16,012,000 (50,000) -0.3%
AT&T 15,412,000 (473,000) -3.0%
Dish TV 8,554,000 (132,000) -1.5%
Verizon 3,782,000 (63,000) -1.6%
Cox 3,530,000 (60,000) -1.7%
Altice 2,870,500 (48,300) -1.7%
Mediacom 611,000 (15,000) -2.4%
Frontier 423,000 (30,000) -6.6%
Atlantic Broadband 309,242 (4,349) -1.4%
Cable One 287,000 (11,000) -3.7%
Total 70,746,742 (1,285,649) -1.8%
Total Cable 42,575,742 (587,649) -1.4%
Total Other 28,171,000 (698,000) -2.4%

Some observations about the numbers:

  • The big loser continued to be AT&T, which lost a net of 473,000 traditional video customers between DirecTV and AT&T TV. During this quarter the company spun its cable business off to a new company, but are still reported here as AT&T.
  • The big percentage loser continues to be Frontier which lost 6.6% of its cable customers for the second quarter in a row.
  • After staving off big losses in 2020, Comcast has lost almost 900,000 cable customers this year.
  • Charter continues to lose cable customers at a slower pace than the rest of the industry. I’ve searched by can’t find any explanation for this.
  • This is the tenth consecutive quarter that the industry has 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 at the end of 2019. That equates to a net loss if 14.7 million customers (17% of customers) since the end of 2018.

The big losses in cable subscribers is happening at the same time that the biggest ISPs are adding a lot of broadband customers. The biggest ISPs added almost 900,000 new broadband subscribers in the second 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 second quarter of 2021 where the combination of Hulu plus Live TV, Sling TV, and FuboTV collectively gained only 56,000 customers.

One thought on “The Cable Market Continues to Erode 2Q 2021

  1. We tell our municipal customers this regularly, that they can compete with cable companies with data only plans because that is the way the market is drifting at the consumer demand level…

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