FCC approval of Charter Communications’s merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks means that three major players — Comcast, the New Charter and ATT — control most of America’s digital pipelines. Cable TV providers suffered what analysts called “modest” losses of video subscribers in 2015, continuing a 2-year trend due to new internet TV competition, “cord-cutting” and “cord-nevers.” Broadband subscriptions, on the other hand, showed strong increases.
Subscribers to U.S. video and internet services (Q1 2016 or as noted)
||Q3-2016 company reports: Video subs increased by 32K in Q3; high-speed internet added 330K subs; 11,643,000 voice customers
||Merger of Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks approved 2016; 9,400,000 telephone subs.
|ATT (includes DIRECTV)
||Will stream DirecTV to connected devices in Q4 2016; 54,700,000 consumer wireless customers; merger with Time Warner announced
||112,573,000 wireless customers; acquired AOL in 2015
||activated HULU on set-top boxes; 2,185,000 voice customers
||Q2 2015 – Sling TV subs now included in video count.
||Kansas City, Austin, Provo
Recent court rulings have upheld the rights of Hopper (Dish Network’s ad skipping tool) and Aereo (feeding broadcast TV channels to your home via internet) to continue their digital challenges to the broadcast TV business model, as recounted by David Carr in his July 29 Media Equation column. These upstart services threaten TV advertising and retransmission license fees, respectively, representing worrisome leaks in the basement of the broadcast TV business model. Studies on ad-skipping have shown its appeal. Time-Warner Cable exploited Aereo threat as a bargaining chip in its contentious carriage negotiation with CBS this summer. Though largely unknown to the public, you have to wonder how quickly these digital disruptions could catch on once consumers take notice.