Comcast’s latest earnings report indicate that the company managed to add 53,000 video subscribers in the first quarter of 2016, compared to a loss of 8,000 video subscribers during the first quarter of last year. Comcast’s accomplishing the subscriber growth in three ways: like Dish it’s now including its $15 Stream TV customers in its totals, and the company’s new X1 set top is luring some customers back from satellite and telcoTV. But most importantly the company is effectively giving away promotional TV subscriptions to broadband subscribers in uncompetitive broadband markets.
We’ve heard from more than a few younger customers that have signed up for TV just because it was significantly cheaper than getting broadband alone, letting their cable box just collect dust in their closet. It’s not clear just how many customers have signed up for television service on promotion they may not want and don’t really use — but it’s likely not insignificant.
As such, Comcast isn’t so much bucking the cord cutting trend (as will be suggested by most media outlets) as so much as it’s giving television service away on promo and fiddling with accounting.
Broadband continues to be where Comcast indisputably dominates, the Philly-based company adding a whopping 438,000 broadband subscribers on the quarter. The cable giant has been helped immeasurably by AT&T and Verizon’s decision to completely ignore DSL customers they don’t want to upgrade, who are fleeing to Comcast thanks to the lure of much faster broadband. That’s only going to accelerate as Comcast expands deployment of DOCSIS 3.1-based gigabit cable speeds traditional DSL (and even AT&T’s U-Verse FTTN platform) can’t reach.
In short, Comcast’s seeing huge gains in broadband subscribers who likely have no other option in their market, and is reaping huge benefits from an overall lack of competition in the broadband space. Those users are upsold heavily discounted TV services, but even then a growing number of these customers clearly prefer to go broadband only, a trend that’s only going to accelerate.
“I’m incredibly pleased with our first quarter results and the strength and momentum we are seeing across our businesses,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. And he should be, given there’s no single company that’s benefiting more from a lack of meaningful broadband competition across huge swaths of the United States.