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The Industry

Cord Cutting Stays on Pace 3Q 2021

The largest traditional cable providers collectively lost over 1.3 million customers in the third quarter of 2021 – an overall loss of 1.9% of customers.

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 second quarter of this year:

3Q 2021 Change % Change
Comcast 18,549,000 (407,000) -2.1%
Charter 15,891,000 (121,000) -0.8%
AT&T 15,000,000 (412,000) -2.7%
Dish TV 8,424,000 (130,000) -1.5%
Verizon 3,714,000 (68,000) -1.8%
Cox 3,460,000 (70,000) -2.0%
Altice 2,803,000 (67,500) -2.4%
Mediacom 590,000 (21,000) -3.4%
Frontier 400,000 (23,000) -5.4%
Atlantic Broadband 360,000 (6,000) -1.6%
Cable One 279,000 (8,000) -2.8%
Total 69,470,000 (1,333,500) -1.9%
Total Cable 41,932,000 (700,500) -1.6%
Total Other 27,538,000 (633,000) -2.2%

Some observations about the numbers:

  • The big loser continued to be AT&T, which lost a net of 412,000 traditional video customers between DirecTV and AT&T TV. While AT&T spun off this business it still retains a controlling share.
  • The big percentage loser continues to be Frontier which lost 5.4% of its cable customers in the quarter.
  • Comcast lost almost as many cable customers as AT&T at 407,000.
  • Charter continues to lose cable customers at a slower pace than the rest of the industry and is the only large company that lost less than 1% of its cable customers in the quarter.
  • This is the tenth consecutive quarter that the industry lost over one million cable subscribers.
  • These companies have collectively lost 4,250,000 customers this calendar year.

To put these losses into perspective, this drops the nationwide penetration rate for traditional cable to about 56%. These same large 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 almost 16 million customers since the end of 2018.

The big losses in cable subscribers are happening at the same time that the biggest ISPs are adding a lot of broadband customers – the biggest ISPs added 630,000 new broadband subscribers in the third quarter of 2021.

Many customers leaving traditional cable are migrating to online programming surrogates. For the quarter, Hulu plus Live TV, Sling TV, and FuboTV collectively gained 680,000 customers.

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