Are Comcast and Time Warner merging right at the dawn of cable TV’s extinction?
Consider this report from Ars Technica:
Comcast and TWC, the two biggest cable companies in the US, combined for 1.1 million lost video subscribers. Comcast finished 2013 with 21.7 million multi-channel video subscribers, down 305,000 according to Leichtman’s research. TWC lost 825,000 video subscribers, dropping to 11.4 million.
At the same time, Comcast added 1.3 million broadband Internet subscribers, to hit a total of 20.7 million. TWC gained 211,000 broadband subscribers, to bring its total to 11.6 million. Comcast’s 1.3 million broadband subscriber gain accounted for “49 percent of the total net additions for the top providers in the year,” the research said.
Time Warner explains its drop using a couple of factors: The end of “aggressively priced” consumer promotions, as well as its battle with CBS and Showtime over the costs of carrying those channels on its system; the temporary blackout of those channels on Time Warner drove a number of customers away.
Still, it’s a good thing both companies are diversified beyond just the cable business.
That’s the glass half-empty version of the story. Here’s the glass half-full, from FierceCable:
With DSL subscriber losses hurting growth at AT&T and Verizon, Comcastwas the number-one broadband provider last year in terms of net subscriber additions, Leichtman Research Group said Monday.
“With top telco providers focused on upgrading customers from DSL to fiber broadband services, cable providers accounted for over 80% of the net broadband adds in 2013,” Bruce Leichtman, LRG president and principal analyst, said in a prepared statement.
It’s good to be the broadband king.
One other Comcastic headline today:
• The Comcast Merger Will Have Benefits, But Are They Worth It? But for all the deal’s risks, there are actually a few good things that could result for Time Warner Cable. CNET’s Marguerite Reardon this week dug through a few of them, correctly noting that Time Warner Cable has traditionally been sluggish on TV and broadband upgrades, meaning that users should see faster speeds and nicer set top boxes in time courtesy of Comcast, who has been bullish on getting DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades deployed. Reardon also makes the good point that Comcast is a little less hostile in retransmission fee rate negotiations, which should mean fewer annoying content blackouts for subscribers. If there’s a flaw in her argument, it’s once again this faith people seem to have that Google Fiber (deployed to all of a handful of actual people) or the phone companies will bring competitive balance to the even-larger cable giant. (DSLReports.com)