Comcast lost 388,000 residential video customers in the United States in the first quarter of 2020. It was its largest loss to date, taking it below 20 million for the first time in almost two decades. In Europe, Sky customers fell by 65,000 to 23.93 million but were up year on year.

Comcast ended the first quarter of 2020 with 19.90 million residential video customers and a further 944,000 video business customers. That was down from 20.28 million residential video customers at the end of 2019 and down 950,000 in 12 months. It was also the largest video subscriber loss for Comcast so far and the twelfth consecutive quarterly loss.

Over three years, Comcast has lost 1.62 million residential video customers, or 7.5% of its video customer base. It should be noted that with nearly 20 million there is still some way to go.

Comcast 2020 Q1 quarterly residential video subscriber change. Source: informitv Multiscreen Index

Video revenue rose by just 0.1% year on year to $5.63 billion. Internet access revenue rose by 9.3% to just over $5.00 billion.

Michael Cavanagh, the chief financial officer of Comcast, told analysts: “We don’t see video trends changing as we begin the second quarter, and so we could see a similar year-over-year increase in the number of video customer net losses in the second quarter, likely still a reflection of our beginning-of-year rate increase as well as changing consumer preferences and economic stress.”

Comcast 2020 Q1 cumulative residential video subscriber change. Source: informitv Multiscreen Index

Comcast emphasised that total customer relationships increased by 371,000, to 31.9 million, marking its best first quarter on record. Internet subscribers were up by 477,000, the largest increase in 12 years.

That was before the full impact of the coronavirus restrictions, which the company says will have a negative on the second quarter as a result of the significant deterioration in domestic economic conditions.

Brian Roberts, the chairman and chief executive of Comcast Corporation, said the company had successfully moved tens of thousands of employees to working from home, including 95% of call centre representatives in the United States.

“Our engineers have done a wonderful job in creating and maintaining a network flexible enough to allow so many of us to learn and work at home. We’ve seen an unprecedented shift in network use, with a 33% increase in upstream traffic.”

Comcast has soft-launched its Peacock online video service for its existing Xfinity customers.

“While this certainly wasn’t our plan, there may not have been a better time to launch our free ad-supported streaming product, Peacock, for Xfinity customers,” he said. “Now it’s only been three weeks, but what I can tell you is we’re already pacing ahead of our internal forecast on monthly active users and in time spent viewing and we’re still on track to launch Peacock nationally in July.”

At European subsidiary, Sky, total customer relationships fell by 65,000 to 23.93 million, attributed to the postponement of sports events and the suspension of some sales channels as a result of the coronavirus.

It was the second quarterly loss of customer relationships in 12 months, although they were up 218,000 year on year.

Average monthly revenue per customer relationship fell to $51.19, down from $55.96 the previous quarter and an average of $54.41 over 2019. Sky revenue decreased 3.7% to $4.5 billion.

Sky has allowed users to pause its sports subscriptions. As a result, cancellations were described as minimal.