Cable Operators Maintain Broadband Lead in Q3 2020

Led by Comcast and Charter, major cable companies continued to eclipse wireline telcos in the broadband race by adding about 1,320,000 subscribers in the third quarter.

  • Leichtman Research Group (LRG)

Cable continues to hold onto its dominant broadband subscriber position, a trend that continued in the third quarter of 2020 as more residential subscribers work from home and conduct remote schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the quarter, Leichtman Research Group (LRG) revealed that cable broadband had over one million net adds for the third consecutive quarter – the first time since third quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2007. The major cable companies added about 1,320,000 subscribers in the third quarter – up from a net gain of about 830,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2019.

Comcast, in particular saw a large gain. The cable MSO had a total of 633,000 net adds, which LRG said were more than in any quarter in the past fifteen years.

Likewise, Charter had a large gain, adding 537,000 broadband subscribers during the quarter. Cox and Altice added 50,000 and 26,000 subscribers, respectively.

While their gains paled cable, wireline telcos added about 210,000 subscribers in the third quarter – compared to a net loss of about 220,000 subscribers in the same period a year ago.

AT&T and Verizon saw the most gains with the addition of 174,000 and 110,000 subscribers, respectively. However, CenturyLink/Lumen and Frontier saw continued declines in their broadband subscriber base. CenturyLink/Lumen lost 75,000 and Frontier lost 23,000 subscribers.

Amidst the losses, CenturyLink/Lumen did add 62,000 subscribers that picked a 100 Mbps or above package. Neel Dev, CenturyLink’s CFO, noted during the earnings call that “13% of our total broadband subs now have greater than 100 meg speeds compared to 5% at the beginning of last year.”

One notable exception in the Tier 2 telco space was Windstream. The telco’s Kinetic broadband division added added 12,900 new broadband customers in the third quarter. For the first nine months of the year, Kinetic added a total of 53,000 broadband customers, putting it well on track to meet its 2020 goal of 60,000 net adds. Kinetic also extended fiber gigabit services to 325,000 new locations during the first nine months of the year.

“With the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there were more quarterly net broadband additions in 3Q 2020 than in any quarter in over eleven years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.  “Over the past year, there were about 4,550,000 net broadband adds, compared to about 2,550,000 net broadband adds over the prior year. This marks the most broadband net adds in a year since 3Q 2008-2Q 2009.”

Broadband Providers

Subscribers at end of 3Q 2020

Net Adds in 3Q 2020

 

Cable Companies

   

Comcast

30,062,000

633,000

Charter

28,633,000

537,000

Cox*

5,330,000

50,000

Altice**

4,363,500

26,000

Mediacom

1,425,000

29,000

Cable One**

865,000

27,000

WOW (WideOpenWest)

808,900

3,300

Atlantic Broadband

492,212

13,523

 

Total Top Cable

71,979,612

1,318,823

 

Wireline Phone Companies

   

AT&T

15,375,000

174,000

Verizon

7,069,000

110,000

CenturyLink/Lumen^

4,563,000

(75,000)

Frontier

3,119,000

(23,000)

Windstream

1,102,300

12,900

Consolidated

792,211

1,008

TDS

487,700

8,200

Cincinnati Bell

434,500

2,500

 

Total Top Telco

32,942,711

210,608

 

Total Top Broadband

104,922,323

1,529,431

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

*    LRG estimate

**   Includes recent small acquisition

^    CenturyLink was renamed Lumen Technologies in 3Q 2020

TDS includes 281,500 wireline broadband subscribers, and 206,200 cable broadband subscribers

Company subscriber counts may not solely represent residential households – about 6% of the total are non-residential

Top cable and wireline phone companies represent approximately 96% of all subscribers

 

Net additions reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions, reporting adjustments, and the addition of new providers to the list – therefore, comparing totals in this release to prior releases will not produce accurate findings

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