Why Comcast Recently Lost 125K Cable Customers

“We saw it coming,” Comcast CEO Roberts said of the losses on Thursday.
Comcast Center

Comcast Center. Photo: Dan McQuade

Last quarter, 125,000 Comcast TV customers did away with their cable subscriptions. The loss is the company’s largest quarterly decline of cable customers in the last three years. The numbers demonstrate that cord cutting has truly turned up the pressure on traditional pay TV providers. And the major hurricanes that tore through the country this fall also tore through Comcast’s footprint, adding salt to the company’s wound.

After the Comcast released its third quarter earnings Thursday morning, the company’s chairman and CEO Brian Roberts acknowledged the shifting video landscape on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “Yes, it’s a competitive market,” he said, “We saw it coming.” Adding, “Video is changing.” 

But the CEO also noted that despite the hit to cable, business is moving to other divisions. The cable operator added broadband customers, mobile customers and home security customers, according to company data. Without the storms that hit the Gulf Coast region and Florida, the company would have added about 240,000 broadband customers, Roberts said. And without the storms, the company’s TV losses would’ve lessened to 100,000. And still, revenue for the company’s cable division rose 5.1 percent to $13.2 billion total. Currently, broadband is more profitable. The company has 25 million broadband customers and 22 million video customers.

Overall Comcast NBCUniversal quarterly revenue dropped 1.6 percent to $21 billion. And for NBCUniversal specifically, revenue fell 13 percent to about $8 billion. The CEO noted that because NBCUniversal aired the 2016 Olympic Games, it’s tough to compare this year’s third quarter to last year’s. When the impact of the Olympic Games is removed, NBCUniversal revenue increased six percent.

Roberts also confirmed recent reports that its wireless service is gaining traction. “For the first time today, we’re talking about XFinity Mobile,” he said. “We only launched it in May and we’ve reached over 250,000 customers.”

Looking ahead, the CEO says the company will likely continue to pivot to broadband, while also doubling down on customers who find value in the X1 TV platform and the new Instant TV offering. The cable losses are driving the Internet business, and they also “drive over-the-top revenues for NBC and Universal when people go to these new services,” Roberts said.

“We’ll see how sustainable they are.”

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