As alternatives to cable TV subscriptions continue to flourish, more and more people are preparing their homes for a life without cable boxes. The nation’s cable and telecom companies gained more than 3 million broadband subscribers in 2014, according to a report published Thursday morning by the Leichtman Research Group. Top dogs Comcast and Time Warner Cable led the way, accounting for more than 64 percent of the total additions, with more than 1.9 million combined subscribers added in 2014.
While three of the biggest gainers were cable companies, telecommunications giant Verizon Communications had a strong year as well, signing up 190,000 subscribers to its FiOS service, giving them more than 9.2 million subscribers nationwide.
As Leichtman Research Group president and principal analyst Bruce Leichtman noted, this was the first time in nearly 10 years that broadband subscriptions increased year over year; the last time was in 2006, when the year’s total additions surpassed 2005’s. That factoid becomes starker when one considers that the U.S. cable television industry has been losing subscribers. Research firm SNL Kagan found that more than a quarter-million customers cut their cords in 2013, the first time the industry has ever lost subscribers, and that downward trend has continued – Comcast alone lost more than 194,000 subscribers in 2014.
Of course, the losses on the cable side pale in comparison to the number of broadband subscribers – 1.28 million -- Comcast added last year. Comcast is the country’s largest broadband provider, with nearly 22 million subscribers, and it made more than $68 billion last year.
The year’s gains now mean the country’s top providers supply more than 87 million subscribers with broadband connectivity. "About four out of every five U.S. households gets broadband at home," Leichtman said.
Most of those subscriptions are held by cable companies – 52 million, compared to 35 million – and they are expanding their subscriber bases more quickly than their telecom competitors. Cable companies posted 123 percent of their net additions in 2013, while the telecommunications companies made just 72 percent of their net additions over the same period.