Charter Loses Fewer Pay TV Subs, Broadband Growth Slows

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge
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Charter CEO Tom Rutledge

"We added nearly two million customer relationships in 2020 — 800,000 more than we added in 2019," highlights CEO Tom Rutledge.

Cable operator Charter Communications, in which John Malone's Liberty Broadband owns a big stake, lost fewer pay TV subscribers in the fourth quarter than in the year-ago period, but its broadband user gains, a key growth engine amid the coronavirus pandemic, slowed.

Charter chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge lauded the firm's performance for all of 2020, including overall user trends, saying: "We added nearly two million customer relationships in 2020 — 800,000 more than we added in 2019 — and demand for our connectivity products remains strong."

Charter lost 66,000 residential pay TV subscribers in the final quarter of 2020, compared with a loss of 105,000 in the year-ago period. Including small- and medium-sized business clients, where it recorded gains, it lost 35,000 customers, a swing from a year-ago loss of 101,000. As of the end of 2020, Charter had more than 15.6 million residential and 16.2 million total video customers.

Charter's broadband business once again was a key growth area, recording 216,000 residential internet subscriber net additions, down from 313,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019. Including small- and medium-sized business clients, the gain of 246,000 compared with 339,000 in the year-ago period.

Charter's mobile business also continued to grow, with accelerated momentum. The firm added 315,000 mobile lines in the fourth quarter, up from 288,000 in the year-ago period. As of Dec. 31, it served a total of nearly 2.38 million mobile lines.

Rutledge recently said that entertainment companies' growing focus on direct-to-consumer services could make paying for content bundles untenable over time.