Broadband subscriber numbers surpass cable TV subscriber numbers in US

The top 17 cable and telephone providers in the US have signed up around 385,000 additional high-speed internet subscribers in the second quarter of 2014, WRAL Techwire reports quoting the Leichtman Research Group (LRG) findings.

These top broadband providers, representing around 93 per cent of the market, now boast of over 85.9 million broadband subscribers nationwide.

The report, released on Friday, revealed that top cable companies had around 50.7 million broadband subscribers with top telephone companies having 35.2 million subscribers.

Overall, second quarter broadband additions came in at 130 per cent of those during the same period in 2013.

Broadband subscribers exceeded the number of cable TV subscribers for the first time ever -- with about 49,915,000 broadband subscribers at the end of the second quarter, as against 49,910,000 cable TV subscribers.

The top telephone companies added about 2,000 broadband subscribers last quarter - as against a loss of about 2,000 in 2013, while AT&T and Verizon added 627,000 subscribers via U-verse and FiOS last quarter, even as there were a net loss of 636,000 DSL subscribers.

Meanwhile, the cable companies do not seem to be perturbed by the latest stats showing that the cable TV numbers were falling by a fair amount compared to the internet broadband subscription numbers, The Next Digit reported. Though this was not unexpected, it was not expected to happen so soon.

AT&T saw a gain of 16.5 million broadband subscribers in the second quarter of the year, while Verizon registered 9 million subscribers. The only difference lay in the fact that AT&T had lost 55,000 subscribers in the same quarter even as Verizon gained 46,000 subscribers.

In a statement, Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc said: ''With the addition of more than 30 million broadband subscribers over the past decade, cable providers have clearly expanded well beyond their roots in cable TV service.''

Marcus Wohlen, writing in Wired, said the transition might suit the ''cable companies'' just fine. He writes that the numbers were pointed out to him by Peter Kafka at Recode, who wrote: ''Some smart people suggest that the cable guys would not be unhappy if most of their business moved over to broadband instead of video, since there are much better margins-and almost no competition-for broadband.''

The better margins are due mainly to the fact that broadband was purely about access, while cable was about content. The cable business was essentially about signing deals with the makers of sports, news, and entertainment so there was something to send through the box. And the costs could be steep, with ESPN, the most pricey by far, topping $5 per subscriber per month.

With broadband, cable companies do not have to put anything through those pipes themselves. They might not like the way Netflix and its over than 36 million US subscribers ate into their TV businesses, but Netflix and other streaming services were helping drive demand for broadband-a service cable operators could provide without having to serve up any content themselves at all.