Comcast Slows the Bleeding

Kabletown rejoices as it loses fewer basic video subs than expected while growing in other key service areas

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

February 16, 2011

2 Min Read
Comcast Slows the Bleeding

So, this is what it's come down to with respect to cable's eroding basic video subscriber base: It's time to rejoice when an MSO loses fewer of them than everyone was expecting it to.

That was one of the positives that came out of a generally strong fourth quarter at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which lost 135,000 basic subs, far fewer than the 206,000 that Wall Street was expecting. Comcast ended up losing 757,000 basics for all of 2010, giving it a total of 22.8 million at year's end. (See Comcast Posts Q4.)

Kabletown isn't pinning most of those earlier, larger losses on the bad economy and emerging trends like cord-cutting, but is instead blaming it on the broadcast digital TV transition, when it offered inexpensive basic packages to consumers who had been relying on over-the-air TV signals. It seems a sizable number of those customers churned out when the promotion pricing on those deals ended earlier in the year.

The slower rate of basic video losses signals "that the impact of the digital transition is now behind us," CFO Michael Angelakis said on Wednesday morning's call.

Comcast cable unit president Neil Smit amplified that point, noting that roughly 40 percent of video losses during 2010 came from customers taking its most basic "B1" tier.

In advanced services, Comcast got a nice jolt, adding 283,000 digital video subs (versus 219,000 in the same quarter a year ago); 292,000 high-speed Internet subs (versus 249,000); and 257,000 digital voice customers (versus 228,000).

On the financial front, Comcast beat the street with revenues of $9.72 billion, up 7.2 percent, to go with per-share earnings of 35 cents, which beat the analysts' consensus by 3 cents.

A helpful driver again was Comcast's budding business services unit, which saw year-on-year revenues jump 53.3 percent, to $365 million, in the fourth quarter, while raking in $1.3 billion for all of 2010. That's being pushed along by Comcast's move up market to mid-sized businesses with Metro Ethernet and growing cell backhaul support. (See Cable's $5B Biz Services Bonanza and Comcast Chases Big[ger] Business .)

Among other tidbits from the call:

  • Comcast has initiated its Project Cavalry analog reclamation project in 75 percent of its markets, and has deployed 17 million Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices in support so far. (See Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan .)

  • The video-optimized content delivery network is up and running in the majority of Comcast's markets, company officials say. (See Comcast's 'Project Infinity' Takes Flight .)

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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