Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Big Cable Loses More Subscribers, Still Says It Isn’t Seeing Cord-Cutting

It’s earnings season, which means it’s time to break out the cord-cutting-is-real-no-it-isn’t debate. As usual: A big cable company — in this case, Time Warner Cable — saw a decrease in video subscribers and continues to insist that it’s not losing people to the Internet, but to the economy.

Here’s the company’s story in an almost-easy-to-understand chart. Pay attention to the parenthetical numbers, which denote subscriber losses. The two to focus on are the video subscribers — down 128,000 for the quarter — and the total subscribers — down 16,000.

And, as usual, there are plausible explanations for the loss which don’t have to include people ditching their TV subscriptions for some kind of Apple TV/Hulu/Netflix combo. The most obvious one is that Time Warner Cable is dealing with competition from telcos like Verizon and satellite guys like DirecTV.

One counter-argument for the cord-cutting crowd: Time Warner Cable’s broadband data subscribers numbers increased — by 89,000 — even as video subs declined. Again, that doesn’t have to be a cord-cutting signal — it’s possible, for instance, to use DirecTV for video and Time Warner for data. But if you’re inclined to think otherwise, that’s what you’re going to do.

Meanwhile, a warning for the advertising business: The company said that “soft advertising” trends it saw last quarter were continuing this quarter.

Cable providers like Time Warner don’t typically have a robust ad sales operation, because it’s a minor point of the business, so you don’t want to make too much of this. But that heads up does sync up with other murmurs about Q4 ads I’ve been hearing from other companies, in other industries, so worth keeping an eye on.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald