Charter Loses 144,000 Pay TV Subs in Fourth Quarter, Adds 105,000 Broadband Users

The cable giant's mobile business continued to accelerate as the company added 615,000 mobile lines.

Cable giant Charter Communications, in which John Malone’s Liberty Broadband owns a big stake, reported its fourth-quarter results Friday, including slowed broadband subscriber growth and a bigger pay-TV user loss than in the year-ago period.

The company, led by its new president and CEO Chris Winfrey, lost 144,000 pay-TV subscribers in its latest quarter, compared with a loss of 58,000 in the year-ago period. It ended December with a total of more than 15.1 million pay-TV customers.

Charter’s broadband user growth in the fourth quarter slowed as it added 105,000 customers after gaining 190,000 in the year-ago period. It ended 2022 with more than 30.4 million broadband subscribers.

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But Charter’s mobile business continued to grow faster. In the fourth quarter, the firm added 615,000 mobile lines, up from 380,000 in the year-ago period. That meant it ended 2022 with nearly 5.3 million mobile lines.

Total customer relationships saw 54,000 net additions in the final period of 2022, down from 120,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021, to nearly 32.2 million.

“We continued to execute well in 2022, growing customer relationships, revenue and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization,” said Winfrey. “In 2023 and the coming years, we remain focused on three core initiatives — network evolution, footprint expansion and operational execution. Each of these initiatives will deliver benefits for a growing base of customers, our employees and local communities, with long-term value creation for our shareholders.” 

During an analyst call, CEO Winfrey focused broadly on Charter’s expanding wireless phone offerings and Internet broadband products. That comes as Charter continues to sell and market traditional video packages alongside its mobile and broadband products, but that’s done as the pay TV bundle continues to come under pressure in the face of competition from streaming platforms and cord-cutting.

Winfrey on the call reiterated frustration that video programming costs continued to rise, despite content being available at a lower cost, and in some cases for free because of piracy, elsewhere in the market. He added Charter had raised its prices on a range of products, including on video, to offset rising programming costs.

“We’re focused on trying to provide competitive products at the best price in the market and best packaging, so that we can grow faster. But given what’s happened in the video space, we continue to pass through rate increases for the programming increases that we’ve seen,” Winfrey told analysts.

At the same time, video programming costs at Charter edged lower during the latest quarter due to the reduction in the number of video customers. Winfrey also pointed to a “step-up in non-pay, as well as bad debt” among his company’s subscribers that reflects the overall U.S. economy where consumers are feeling the impact of a recessionary threat.