Comcast Cord-Cutting Accelerated to Record High 11.2% in 2022

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That moment we all talked about, where the polar ice caps underpinning the pay TV ecosystem melt into the sea, slowly at first then all at once? It's here. 

Comcast, the top provider of linear pay TV service in America, lost 440,000 traditional video customers in the fourth quarter of 2022, a significant acceleration over the 227,000 bled out in the last three months of 2021.

Worse, the 2.034 million pay TV customers lost by Comcast in 2022 was a significant uptick over the 1.67 million lost in 2021. Overall, Comcast's pay TV base eroded by a huge 11.2% last year, and it now serves only around 16.1 million subscribers. Just three years ago, that figure stood at nearly 20 million customers. 

The metrics were reported Thursday during Comcast's Q4 earnings report. You can read a full rundown here from Broadcasting & Cable

If you like stories about traditional media companies absolutely being roiled by internet disruption -- and who in the TMT business who hasn't been told at least twice to get a box, get your stuff and get out doesn't? -- well, Thursday's Comcast earnings numbers are for you. 

Streaming service Peacock absolutely has some traction for the first time, expanding its paid customer ranks to 20 million from 15 million in Q3. 

The problem: Peacock's quarterly losses grew to $978 million from Oct. 1 - Dec. 31. In Q3, Peacock reported losses of $614 million. For all of 2022, Comcast and NBCU lost around $3 billion -- the "peak", they claim -- building Peacock. 

 Jeff Shell, who heads Comcast's NBCUniversal media division, should be lauded for defibrillating a platform that not so long ago appeared DOA amid the Streaming Wars. 

But as former Disney boss Bob Chapek can tell him, strange things can happen to a chief executive when quarterly losses on DTC efforts exceed $1 billion. 

Of course, things are complicated and conflicted in Shell' broadcast division, too. As Next TV reported two weeks ago, NBC did win the 2021-22 TV season in both total viewers and the key 18-49 demo, but with year-over-year losses coming in at 7% and 13% respectively. 

Indeed, you win some and you lose some, and the video business is tough for Comcast right now just as it is for everyone else not named Netflix. 

But it's not like growth is gangbusters amid the parent cable company's base-level operation -- selling broadband to residences and businesses. 

Comcast said it lost 26,000 high-speed internet users in Q4, with the effects of Hurricane Ian negating what it said should have been a very narrow customer gain of around 4 million. 

Comcast added only 250,000 broadband customers for the year, and finished in negative territory for the final six months of 2022. 

In the fourth quarter of 2021 alone, Comcast added over 1.3 million broadband customers. 

Notably, on Tuesday, Verizon reported record growth of 379,000 customers for its fixed wireless access home internet service. As we've often incredulously noted, cable operators were initially dismissive of the market potential of these FWA home internet offerings. 

They're taking it pretty seriously now. 

During its earnings call Thursday, Comcast touted its plan to festoon the nation with multi-gig internet speeds over the next year -- a gambit that will accelerate in 2023, it said, and differentiate its service from slower 5G FWA. 

Comcast also said it could tap into up to 1 million more high-speed internet passings with rural edge-outs over the next few years, beating back the limitations of market saturation. 

Likewise, the company said in passing that all systems are go for Xumo TV, the Comcast/Charter JV that's supposed to eventually build a living room streaming gateway product that will compete with Roku, Amazon and Google. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said a unified global UI for all of Comcast's various video platforms -- Sky Glass, X1, Flex and Xumo -- will debut this year. 

Until these initiatives eventually take hold, Comcast investors just have to take the pain. 

For whatever reason that's in Wall Street's head and not in ours, Comcast share prices are flat Thursday. 

Perhaps these investors were reacting to Comcast's mobile metrics -- the operator added a record 365,000 mobile lines in Q4 and now has amassed 5.31 million lines of service. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!