Cable Subscriptions Continue to Dive

Leichtman Research Group recently released the cable customer counts for the largest providers of traditional cable service at the end of the first quarter of 2022. LRG compiles most of these numbers from the statistics provided to stockholders, except for Cox, which is privately held and estimated. Leichtman says this group of companies represents 96% of all traditional U.S. cable customers.

The industry continues to bleed customers, losing over 1.4 million customers in the fourth quarter, up from 1.3 million customers the previous quarter. Overall, the traditional cable providers lost almost 15,900 customers every day during the quarter.

1Q 2022 Change Change
Comcast 17,664,000 (512,000) -2.8%
Charter 15,721,000 (112,000) -0.7%
DirecTV 14,300,000 (300,000) -2.1%
Dish Network 7,993,000 (228,000) -2.8%
Verizon 3,566,000 (78,000) -2.1%
Cox 3,310,000 (80,000) -2.4%
Altice 2,658,700 (73,600) -2.7%
Mediacom 555,000 (17,000) -3.0%
Frontier 363,000 (17,000) -4.5%
Breezeline 339,021 (7,708) -2.2%
Cable ONE 238,000 (23,000) -8.8%
   Total 66,707,721 (1,448,308) -2.1%
Hulu Live 4,100,000 (200,000) -4.7%
Sling TV 2,252,000 (234,000) -9.4%
FuboTV 1,056,245 (73,562) -6.5%
Total Cable 40,485,721 (825,308) -2.0%
Total Telco / Satellite 26,222,000 (623,000) -2.3%
Total vMvPD 7,408,245 (507,562) -6.4%

It doesn’t look like people are replacing traditional cable with an online alternative like Hulu and Sling TV – which are also losing customers. A few major online alternatives like YouTube TV aren’t on the list, but the loss in traditional cable far surpasses any net gain for the online cable alternatives.

Charter is still losing customers at a slower rate than everybody else in the industry and has for the past several years. Charter CEO Tom Rutledge explains this by Charter’s willingness to move cable subscribers to less expensive tiers, such as the $44.99 Spectrum TV Select product. He says that Charter actively points out to customers that the online alternatives cost more. The rest of the industry seems resigned to letting cable customers go.

This drops the overall penetration rate of traditional TV to just above 51% of households. The industry has lost over fifteen million customers since the end of 2017 when traditional cable was in over 73% of homes.

One of the consequences of the rapid drop in cable customers is that cable companies are losing the power of the bundle. The traditional cable industry has lost almost one-third of all cable customers since 2017, greatly reducing opportunities to retain customers with bundling discounts.

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