Who owns the digital pipelines?

Cord-cutting continued in 2019 as U.S. consumers dropped pricey cable TV bundles in favor of internet-based TV and movie options. As the cable/broadband industry consolidates, three major players — Comcast, Charter and AT&T — now control most of America’s digital pipelines.

Subscribers to U.S. video and internet services (Q4 2019 or as noted)

Company Consumer Digital TV Consumer Internet  
COMCAST 21,250,000 28,600,000 Added 1.4 million internet customers in 2019; 9.9 million voice customers
CHARTER  16,140,000 26,670,000 9.4 million telephone subs
ATT (includes DIRECTV) 19,500,000 15,400,000 62.3 million consumer wireless devices; more than 4 million video subs lost from DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, and AT&T TV NOW in 2019
VERIZON FIOS 4,230,000 6,960,000 94.5 million wireless customers
COX 3,865,000 5,170,000 Q4-2019 estimates
ALTICE 3,179,000 4,187,000 Q4-2019 estimates: about 4.6 million voice customers
DISH 9,394,000  595,000 Includes Sling TV subscribers
CenturyLink n.a. 4,680,000  

Sources: Company reports, Leichtman research

Internet and smartphone growth have slowed, Mary Meeker reports

Mary Meeker’s 2018 report on the state of the internet, via ReCode

In her annual state-of-the-internet report, Mary Meeker sizes up changes last year and emerging trends for next year. Here are a few of many takeaways. Review all of the slides below.

  • Smartphone and internet growth have slowed. With more than half the world online, there are fewer people left to connect. Time spent online, however, is still increasing.
  • Voice-controlled products like Amazon Echo are taking off.
  • Tech companies are facing a “privacy paradox.” They’re caught between using data to provide better consumer experiences and violating consumer privacy.
  • E-commerce growth is accelerating; physical retail sales are continuing to decline.
  • Streaming TV contenders 2017

    More than one third of U.S. broadband households had a connected TV early in 2017, 45% had a smart TV, and almost half had a gaming console, according to this Parks Associates study. From the consumer’s perspective, this rapidly evolving internet-video landscape can be roughly divided into media streaming devices you need to get access, services which offer live streaming TV channels (in effect, a virtual cable TV subscription) and the grand variety of video-on-demand programming services which offer movies, TV shows and more for streaming.

    Competition reached a boiling point late in 2017 among the key players: Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV, Comcast, Disney, Roku and many others.

    Live TV streaming services

    DirecTV Now (AT&T) – More than 100 live channels – $35/month
    Hulu with Live TV – $8/month
    Instant TV (from Comcast, due Sept 2017)
    PlayStation Vue – $40/month and up
    Sling TV (Dish) – $20/month
    YouTube TV – $35/month

    Subscription video on demand (SVOD) services

    Acorn TV – Best of British TV
    Amazon Prime Video – Deep catalog of movies, plus original TV series.
    CBS All Access – Live and on-demand CBS shows plus NFL games.
    fuboTV Premier– Live HD streams of MLB, NBA, NHL games.
    HBO NOWGame of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, Westworld and other HBO titles on demand.
    Hulu – On-demand TV with a new slate of original titles including The Handmaid’s Tale.
    Netflix – The leading service for streaming TV shows and movies, also offering Netflix Original shows.
    Showtime AnytimeHomeland, Billions, The Affair and other original series.
    Starz – Original series and movies

    Streaming media enabling devices

    Smart TV – Most TVs sold today are “smart,” meaning they have internet connections and TV apps installed.
    Roku – The leading supplier of connected TV devices supports just about every programming service except iTunes – Roku Streaming Stick (3600R) | Portable HD Streaming Player, Quad-Core Processor, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, Point Anywhere Remote (Certified Refurbished)
    Amazon Fire TV – Supports Amazon Video, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and many more, at 4K video quality – Fire TV Streaming Media Player or Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote
    Chromecast – Latest version of Chromecast Ultra supports 4K and HDR quality video.
    Apple TV – (Upgrade expected Sept 2017) – Supports Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW and WatchESPN, with Siri Remote

    More information

    Consumer Reports guide to streaming TV services and Wirecutter recommendations. The Simple Dollar offers a guide to cord-cutting. TV set reviews from Rtings.com or Reviewed.com or CNET labs.