The two leading cable television companies in the United States lost over a million video customers between them over the twelve months to the end of September 2013. That is over 3,000 net losses a day. Since September 2008, the two companies have lost over 4.6 million video customers. They continue to sign up customers for broadband data, but overall cable revenues remain relatively flat.
Comcast reported a further loss of video subscribers, down 129,000 over the quarter, and 355,000 over the year to 21.65 million. However, the company continues to add high-speed internet customers, up 297,000 over the quarter and 1,258,000 over the year to 20,283,000. Revenue for video services was up 3.1% for the year to the end of September, at $15,415 million.
Time Warner Cable reported a loss of 306,000 video customers over the same quarter, falling to 11.41 million. That is a loss of 745,000 over the year. The company also lost 24,000 high-speed internet customers over the quarter, but added 190,000 over the year. Revenue for video services for the twelve-month period was down 2.0%, at $16,632 million.
Time Warner Cable accepted that its programming disputes, including blackouts of CBS in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, had cost it some customers, and caused some to drop the video service.
Rob Marcus, the president and chief operating officer, will become chief executive, following the retirement of Glenn Britt for health reasons.
He told analysts “the issues at stake had long-term, far-reaching implications for our business”. He said: “the deals we reached were far better than where we started”.
To boost subscriber numbers, the company is going to give away a Samsung tablet loaded with apps including its TWC TV service, with the purchase of higher-end packages. TWC is also planning to replace older set-top boxes in selected markets and roll out new digital video recorders and associated apps.
The cable company also conceded that it was continuing to face competition from telco operators, with around 27% of its footprint overlapped by AT&T U-verse and 13% by Verizon FiOS.
Cable companies in the United States have collectively lost over ten million video customers since peak levels in 2001 and the rate of loss has increased since around 2008.
Yet the addition of broadband customers and increased prices from enhanced packages have continued to sustain industry revenues.