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Comcast, Time Warner Cable log big broadband advances

Michelle Clancy
US cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable led the growth in US broadband subscriptions during the third quarter, adding a combined 552,000 new subscribers.

Overall, cable operators in the US added 804,000 subscribers, according to Strategy Analytics — good news given the sector’s previous history, which has seen nothing but TV subscriber losses quarter after quarter after quarter. Given the ongoing migration of viewership to online, the trend signifies an opportunity to maintain video engagement with subscribers despite erosion in cable MSOs’ traditional bases.

The Strategy Analytics report indicates that the top 19 tracked operators in the US have seen strong growth in 2015, adding more than 2.1 million new subscribers through the third quarter.

In another positive note for the service providers, broadband average revenue per user (ARPU) continues on an upward trajectory.  In the third quarter results, Broadband ARPU was up between 2% and 7% across cable and telco providers.  Operators are investing in capabilities to offer higher-speed tiers to accommodate the influx of streaming video, and customers are responding favourably.

However, there was a fly in the ointment in the results. The total number of US broadband subscribers only increased by 679,000 due to losses in DSL and slower growth in fiber subscriptions at AT&T and Verizon.  Over the past 12 months, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have accounted for 71% of the 3 million new broadband subscribers. In the third quarter, AT&T lost 106,000 subscribers and Verizon added only 2,000.

"Cable operators continue to increase market share in US broadband," said Jason Blackwell, director of the Service Provider Strategies (SPS) service at Strategy Analytics.  

He added, "Over the past 12 months, Comcast has accounted for 42% of new subscribers among the operators that we track. Fibre growth is still strong, but the telco operators haven't been able to shake off the losses of DSL subscribers. In 2016, we expect to see a real battle in broadband, as cable operators begin to roll out DOCSIS 3.1 for even higher speed offers, placing additional pressure on telcos."