The Recap: Price Hikes and Blackouts Teased, 5G Home Internet Soars, and More




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It was a busy week of earnings, which meant subtle teases of price hikes?

In the first week of earnings, we got major players like Comcast, Netflix, and all three major telecom players reporting their fourth-quarter results, and the numbers are interesting. We saw a continued rise in 5G home internet service, and perhaps a tease for higher rates down the line. 

But after the last year, is anyone surprised?

It wasn’t all bad. YouTube TV and Sling TV Freestream each unveiled some welcome new features. 

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.

5G Home Internet Still a Hit

People love 5G home internet service, and it showed with the fourth-quarter results. T-Mobile once again led the way and added 541,000 new subscribers, bringing its total to 4.8 million customers, making it one of the biggest internet service providers in the nation in just two years. 

Verizon was no slouch, adding 231,000 customers, while AT&T chipped in 67,000 – which isn’t bad considering it just formally launched the service two quarters ago. 

The same day T-Mobile reported its results, Comcast reported losing 34,000 broadband customers, so Cord Cutting 2.0 is having an impact. 

Price Hikes Teased

Success typically comes with a price, and we may end up having to pay it. T-Mobile’s stellar run of 5G home internet growth had investors asking if it would raise prices to take advantage of the demand. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert, for the second time in two months, kept the door open for “optimizations,” or financial jargon for jacking up your bill. To be fair, he did say he would see how consumers respond, and added he wouldn’t give up his value position. 

Netflix, celebrating its own stellar fourth-quarter results, offered a subtle note in its quarterly letter to shareholders saying that it would “occasionally ask our members to pay a little extra,” which may not bode well for subscribers. Just a day later, Netflix raised prices in Singapore – will the U.S. be next?

Another DIRECTV Blackout Teased

It’s the same story, with just a change in some of the company names. DIRECTV and Cox Media are facing a redistribution agreement that expires on February 2, and are having a war of words with each other

Cox is touting its local journalism and the need to get fair value for its content. DIRECTV claims the ask is too much and offered the same a la carte offer it gave to Tegra (which it rejected). Failure to come to an agreement would lead to another blackout of several local ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates – DIRECTV’s second this year (and it’s only January). 

Given how these past dealings have gone, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about a deal struck in time. 

Sling Freestream’s New DVR

On a more positive note, Sling TV’s Freestream service launched a new digital video recorder service with 10 hours of storage. It’s the first free streaming service to include a free DVR. 

Let’s see more of these from the other services, please. 

YouTube TV Tackles Broadcast Delay

Lastly, YouTube TV on Thursday introduced a new feature that lets you permanently reduce the broadcast delay of your stream. 

You were previously able to do this for 48 hours, but now you have the option to turn this mode on as a default. 

Keep in mind that reducing the delay means less buffering, which could result in some playback disruptions. But if you want the absolutely real-time feed – especially for the Super Bowl – it’s the way to go.

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