The Recap: Huge Cable TV Losses, Prime Video’s Ad-Free Tier Gets Priced, and More




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man cutting cable cord

It was another busy week of earnings, which meant a load of revelations from the various companies. 

It was a bloodbath for the cable companies, while the wireless companies once again saw strong growth in 5G home internet. Amazon also finally shared how much you’ll have to pay to get rid of ads in its Prime Video service. 

As always, there was a lot going on in the world of cord cutting. But that’s why The Recap exists, to catch you up on the biggest stories and why you should care about them. 

Here’s what you need to know from this past week. 

Cable TV Defections on the Rise

The top two cable companies posted their third quarter results, and they weren’t pretty from a TV subscriber front. Comcast lost over 490,000 TV customers in the period, and while the cable providers could rely on high-speed internet for growth, the company actually lost 18,000 broadband customers too. 

Spectrum, meanwhile, lost 320,000 TV customers in the third quarter, but at least it added 63,000 internet customers. 

An interesting consolation was the rise in mobile customers. Comcast added 294,000 wireless subscribers in the period, while Spectrum added 594,000 wireless subscribers. 

5G Home Internet Also on the Rise

On the flip side, T-Mobile led all players on the broadband front by adding 557,000 5G home internet in the third quarter. Verizon added 384,000 5G home internet customers. This comes on top of the 25,000 customers AT&T reported adding last week, as it just expanded its service back in August. 

While T-Mobile had a strong quarter from a wireless front, Verizon added 100,000 postpaid phone subscribers, a massive improvement from the 8,000 it added in the second quarter, but still lagging behind its competitors – and the cable providers. Last week, AT&T said it added 468,000 postpaid phone subscribers in the same period.

Looking at the bigger picture, you saw the cable companies eat into the wireless business – with Verizon still the biggest loser, while the carriers ate into cable’s broadband business. 

It’s a topsy-turvy world. 

Amazon Prime Video’s New Fee

Amazon on Thursday dropped some surprise news during its own third-quarter earnings conference call: How much you’ll have to pay to get rid of commercials on Prime Video. 

The company previously said it plans to introduce commercials into its Prime Video service starting next year – the first time its core service will get ads. Amazon CEO Andy Jassey said that the service would intentionally keep them limited so there will be fewer ads than on rival services and traditional TV, but it’ll still be a jarring experience for anyone used to watching The Boys or Jack Ryan without commercials. 

Amazon is in an unusual situation since Prime Video was always included with a Prime subscription. It can’t introduce a cheaper ad-tier like Netflix or Disney+ because it was essentially free. So it’s making ads the default instead. 

If you really don’t want the commercials, you can pay $2.99 a month to move to an ad-free tier. 

The world of streaming continues to get more expensive. 

Roku Channel’s New Lineup

The Roku Channel has become one of the most popular free ad-supported streaming services. This week, the service quietly added 15 new channels. The additions include channels dedicated to Universal Monsters, perfect for Halloween, Ebony TV by Lionsgate and two kids channels focused on Barney & Friends and Super Mario.

On the sports front, Roku added both Fox Sports and NBC Sports, which both offer a curated selection of sports programming. 

In total, the service has more than 350 live TV channels and 80,000 free movies and shows. 

DIRECTV Wants to Pull a Spectrum

Charter’s Spectrum may have set a precedent when it struck a deal with Disney to drop several cable channels and agreed to bundle Disney+ with its linear programming. DIRECTV Chief Content Officer Rob Thun sounded off on the deal while at the LA Sports Innovation Conference this week, and it sounds like it wants similar terms. 

A key sticking point is making sure DIRECTV customers get free access to all of the DTC platforms, especially if the company is paying the programming fee to carry similar channels. 

“We were out there three or four years ago fighting for the principle that our customers shouldn’t have to pay twice,” Thun said, according to a report from Sports Business Journal.

The next few years of negotiations between the video providers and the media companies should be extremely interesting.

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