Even though rival data providers may be grabbing the headlines with gigabit-speed rollouts, cable operators keep steadily increasing their control of the huge US broadband market.
In the latest proof of that trend, the ten largest US cable operators collectively netted close to 2.7 million high-speed data subscribers last year, besting their gains of a year earlier by a healthy 23%, according to fresh figures from the nation's 17 leading broadband providers compiled by the Leichtman Research Group Inc. (LRG) . With this sizable increase, the ten big MSOs boosted their total broadband sub count to about 52 million, giving them a commanding 59.6% share of the overall US broadband market.
Moreover, the top MSOs accounted for a whopping 89% of the broadband subscriber gains in the US market last year, up from an already impressive 82% of the broadband sub gains in 2013, as they widened their lead by 2.3 million customers. The nation's seven biggest telcos accounted for the rest of broadband sub gains as they added more data customers, but saw their combined market share fall further behind cable's share.
The cable industry's continuing broadband successes stand in stark contrast to the industry's lagging performance in the pay-TV arena, where it keeps coughing up market share to the aggressive large telcos and satellite TV operators. In that parallel market, cable's overwhelming market share has now slipped to 51.8%, while the satellite TV providers have boosted their share to a competitive 36.0% and the telcos have raised their share to a respectable 12.2%. (See US Pay-TV Providers Pile Up New Losses.)
As has become customary, giant Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) easily led the way with an impressive pickup of almost 1.3 million high-speed data customers for the year, followed by strong gains of 657,000 subs for Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and 432,000 subs for Charter Communications Inc. Among the top ten MSOs, only Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) suffered a loss of broadband subscribers for the year, shedding 20,000 data customers in the fiercely competitive New York metro market where it faces off against Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS service.
While they continued to pad their broadband subscriber totals as well, the seven largest US phone companies fared worse than they did a year ago. The big telcos collectively picked up 345,000 data customers in 2014, down more than 25% from their take in 2013, as they continued to cope with heavy losses of DSL subs.
Five of the top seven phone providers registered broadband sub gains last year, with Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) and FairPoint Communications Inc. both failing to make the grade. Verizon led the group with an increase of 190,000 subscribers, followed by Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR) and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) with increases of 108,500 and 91,000, respectively.
Taken together, the 17 service providers now have more than 87.3 million broadband customers. These 17 providers represent about 94% of the nation's broadband market, which includes more than 92 million homes.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading