Netflix passing cable in video subscribers

Netflix grew its U.S. customer base by 27 million in just the last five years.

In an interesting numerical testimony on the shifting video marketplace, Netflix has surpassed cable in TV subscribers. 

The hat tip goes to Forbes for coming up with the interesting metric, which in this case takes the term “cable” literally, as opposed to a commonly used euphemism for all of pay-TV. 

With 50.85 million U.S subscribers, the SVOD service now has more TV video customers than the 48.61 million collectively controlled by the leading cable companies at the end of the first quarter.

It’s worth noting that the cable number comes from Leichtman Research, which counted Comcast, Charter, Cox, Altice, Mediacom and Cable One. It’s also notable that the Leichtman count leaves out a lot of tier 2 operators, like WideOpenWest and Alaska’s GCI, not to mention the entire spectrum of small cable companies covered by the National Cable TV Cooperative. 

But with Netflix growing its U.S. customer base by 27 million in just the last five years, an official passage of the cable video business by the leading SVOD provider seems to be only a matter of time. Cable video subscribers have declined by 4 million over that same five-year stretch. 

Does this matter? To a point, yes, as cable operators rethink their role as distributors of video programming, and many move into a position of aggregating OTT services rather than competing with them. 

According to Leichtman, the entire linear pay-TV business—which also takes into account satellite and telco operators—had around 91.5 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter.