Cablers losing ground

Telcos, satcasters gaining subscribers

The final quarter of 2011 was a winner for domestic telcos and satellite companies seeking to displace cablers as TV providers to the American public.

Cumulatively, these alternative services added 549,000 TV subscribers in the quarter, while major cable distribs shed 205,500 subs.

The bulk of that loss came from Time Warner Cable, the country’s second-largest cable operator, which lost 129,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter. For the year, TWC was down 368,000, or 3% of its TV subscribers. That’s after a 3.5% loss in 2010.

Comcast, the largest cabler, fared better than most in the quarter, losing only 17,000 subscribers. For the year, the company was down 460,000 subs, ending the year with 22.3 million customers.

Charter Communications, No. 3 among publicly traded cablers, lost 45,500 viewers in the quarter and 215,500 during the year, down 5%. Cablevision Systems, the fourth-biggest publicly traded cable operator, shed 14,000 subs in the quarter and 64,000 (1.9%) for the year.

While cable struggled, AT&T (up 208,000 subs), Verizon (up 194,000), DirecTV (up 125,000) and Dish Network (up 25,000) all posted good numbers for the quarter.

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