You can now officially think of American cable companies as internet service providers with a declining side business in television.
At the end of June, the number of people subscribing to broadband internet from the nine largest US cable companies (49,915,000) exceeded the number of television subscribers (49,910,000) for the first time. That’s according to a new tally by Bruce Leichtman, president of Leichtman Research Group.
The milestone is significant, if not surprising. Cable companies like Comcast have been losing TV subscribers for many years now, as people cut the cord or opt for service from telecoms like Verizon and satellite companies like DirecTV.
However, the cable industry has remained strong as those companies supplant their lost business with new internet subscribers, who are paying more than ever. The average price of Time Warner Cable’s internet service is up 20% over the past two years, to $47 a month.
And as more television watching moves to the internet, the distinction between the two will matter less. For cable companies, the data travels over the same pipes, and even cord cutters still tend to require internet service. Which is one reason internet bills are likely to keep rising.