The top 7 cable, satellite and telco pay TV operators in Q1: Ranking Comcast, DirecTV, Charter and more

Cord cutting

Now that the first-quarter earnings season is in the rear view, it's time to assess the damage. FierceCable has assembled a complete look at the results, ranking the top cable, satellite and telco pay-TV operators and offering a look at their performance in a number of key metrics, including subscriber growth and average revenue per user (ARPU).

How the top 7 U.S. pay-TV operators performed in Q1 in video (ranking by subscribers)

Operator                    Video subs (mil.)               Net adds                Q1 ARPU

1. AT&T                          25.032                           -233K                     $118.23    
2. Comcast                   22.549                            +41K                       $149.83
3. Charter                     16.736                             -100K                     $81.24
4. Dish Network           13.528                             -143K                     $86.55
5. Verizon                      4.681                               -13K                       n/a
6. Cox                            4.140                               -4K                         n/a
7. Altice USA                 3.500                              -35K                       $141.58

Source: IDC US Consumer Multiplay and Broadband Services

Cord cutting quickens to record pace

Cord cutting quickened to an unprecedented pace in first quarter, with Comcast the only major operator able to grow subscribers. All told, the top seven pay-TV operators lost 487,000 video customers in the quarter, the worst first quarter ever for the industry.

Individual story lines explain some of the carnage. Charter said its next-gen “Spectrum Guide” video operating system might be producing gains similar to Comcast’s X1, but the MSO keeps losing legacy Time Warner Cable customers, who are coming off promotions.

Dish Network keeps having carriage and retransmission battles. And AT&T is in the process of killing U-verse. 

But there’s no denial anymore among analysts. Cord cutting’s a thing. 

“The first quarter is usually a seasonally strong one for pay TV. It wasn’t this year,” said MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett, who told telecom investors earlier this month that “the future has arrived” for cord-cutting. 

“With most of the data now in, early returns suggest a litany of worst-evers. It was the worst ever first quarter sub loss, at an estimated 762K subscribers; over five times (five times!) as many as last year’s loss of 141K,” Moffett added. “It leaves the pay TV subscriber universe shrinking at its worst ever annual rate of decline (-2.4%). And it was the worst ever acceleration in the rate of decline (60 basis points).”


Cable takes yet more market share away from AT&T and Verizon in wireline broadband

Wireless companies may one day render wireline broadband obsolete with 5G services. But until that day comes, cable continues to eat their lunch in terms of high-speed internet services.

Comcast added 438,000 high-speed internet (HSI) users in the first quarter, while Charter Communications picked up 428,000. This compared with only narrow gains for the major telco operators.

                          Net HSI adds in Q1

Comcast                +438K
Charter                  +428K
AT&T                      +115K
Verizon                  +35K
Altice USA             +59K