Comcast had some good news for investors this morning, with news that the number of subscribers lost to pay TV competitors and online-only services had slowed dramatically in the fourth quarter. Could Comcast’s slower subscriber losses be evidence that its TV Everywhere initiative might actually be working?
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told investors on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call Wednesday that customer metrics are improving, with the cable firm losing “only” 135,000 basic cable subscribers during the three-month period. While that might sound like a lot, it’s actually an improvement over the third quarter, during which Comcast lost 275,000 basic cable subs, and the previous year’s fourth quarter, when it lost 199,000 subscribers.
So the good news is that subscriber losses are slowing, and Comcast is doing a better job of keeping its customers happy. But it’s not due to the price of Comcast’s service, which has increased rapidly over the past year. The cable firm reported this morning that average revenue per user rose 11 percent to $133 a month in the fourth quarter. Part of that is due to an increased number of subs choosing triple-play packages and HD or DVR features; Comcast reported that a third of its subscribers are now triple-play customers, and more than half of its video customers subscribe to advanced HD or DVR services.
While bundled subscribers are stickier than those on standalone pay TV plans, there could be another reason that Comcast subs are sticking around: They might finally be starting to see value in its TV Everywhere rollout. Comcast has been aggressively working to provide more value to its subscribers by allowing them to view cable content online, on mobile devices and soon on connected TVs. The idea is to reach as many customers with as much content on as many platforms as possible, allowing consumers to make the choice of how they want to watch cable TV content.
Frankly, I’ve been skeptical of TV Everywhere services since launch, but have come around a bit after seeing the Comcast Xfinity iPad app and its on-demand streaming capabilities in action. The big problem for the cable company right now is that it is still working on the addition of streaming titles from many of its content partners, so the selection of authenticated content available is still fairly limited. While Comcast touts more than 150,000 titles on Xfinity.com, including TV shows from Hulu and other content providers, the availability of premium cable content is spotty.
Roberts acknowledged this, saying on the call that the launch of TV Everywhere reminded him of the initial launch of On Demand services, when some critics questioned Comcast’s ability to get an attractive content lineup for the new service. “But we just plowed away at it and now we have more than 25,000 choices,” Roberts said. “I think we’re going to see the same thing happen over time [with TV Everywhere].”
Even so, at least for now the TV Everywhere strategy appears to be working, and might actually be one reason that Comcast is holding on to some subscribers that might otherwise have left.
To see our hands-on with the Comcast iPad app, check out the video below:
Related content on GigaOM Pro: (subscription required)