In 2020, when most cable and other pay TV companies were shedding subscribers in a serious way, one major cable company managed to add them, at least for part of the year.
Charter Communications, the company behind Spectrum Cable and the United States’ second-largest cable provider, added 102,000 pay TV subscribers in the second quarter of 2020 and added another 67,000 in the third quarter.
The company said Friday that it lost 66,000 pay TV subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2020, although this was a smaller loss than the company’s dropping of over 100,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019. Charter now has 15.6 million residential customers, while it has 28.9 million residential and small business Internet customers, following the fourth quarter addition of 216,000.
Overall, Charter brought in $12.6 billion in fourth-quarter revenue, a 7.3 percent increase over the same period the year before.
“Our 2020 performance demonstrates that our customer-friendly operating strategy works well for Charter communities, employees and shareholders, even in challenging economic and operating environments,” Tom Rutledge, Chairman and CEO of Charter, said in the announcement. “We added nearly two million customer relationships in 2020—800,000 more than we added in 2019—and demand for our connectivity products remains strong. As we look forward, we remain focused on the continued execution of our operating strategy, driving customer, revenue and free cash flow growth, enhancing value for our shareholders.”
In the year 2020 overall, Charter added 2.1 million residential Internet customers, compared with 1.3 million in the year before. The company also said that as of the end of 2020, more than 85 percent of its home Internet customers subscribed to plans that gave them speeds of more than 100 Mbps, while more than 50 percent got plans that gave them 200 Mbps or more of speed.
The company further discussed the quarter it had on its earnings call Friday.
“Our residential business performed particularly well with strength in Internet and we—where we added 800,000 more customers than we did the prior year. We remain very optimistic about our opportunity to grow our Internet business given the quality and value of our product,” Rutledge said on the call.
“Despite the outsized growth and some pull-forward of demand into 2020, which will drive continued benefits to our revenue and EBITDA going forward, our expectation and plan for 2021 is to revert to the trend we were on pre-COVID and meet or exceed the customer relationship and Internet net adds that we achieved in 2019,” Rutledge said. “We believe our long-term broadband penetration and market position has actually been enhanced.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.