Comcast reels in 300K broadband subs as growth slows

Comcast raked in 300,000 broadband net additions in Q3 2021, a figure that was less than half the number it added last year and lower than the pre-pandemic gain it posted in the comparable period of 2019.

The operator added 633,000 subscribers during the pandemic in Q3 2020 and 379,000 broadband customers in Q3 2019. Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh previously warned during an investor conference in September the operator expected net additions to slow in Q3.

On an earnings call, Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson attributed the decline to various changes in consumer activity.

“There has been a slowdown in connects across our footprint” thanks in part to reduced “move activity” in the second half compared to earlier in the year and even 2019, he said. Watson also highlighted a dip in “college student activity, not alarmingly so but just a little but less, and just a little bit less switching activity overall. I think if you look at other operators, everyone’s churn is down, so that means less jump balls where we do well.”

Finally, he pointed to a reduction in growth from the lower-income segment, noting traditional wireless carriers have been “very active” in the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit subsidy program recently.

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However, Watson insisted “our broadband net adds are still very healthy and our churn remains at record lows, certainly for Q3,” though did not provide a figure for the latter metric. He added full year 2021 net additions are expected to come in around 2019 levels. Comcast reeled in 1.4 million broadband net additions in 2019 and thus far in 2021 has added 1.115 million, meaning it would need to add 285,000 broadband subscribers in Q4 to hit its target.

Analysts at MoffettNathanson backed Watson’s assertion that Comcast’s broadband business is still performing well, stating in a note to investors growth in the segment “remained strong in Q3”. Of the drop-off in student activity, they explained “it appears that we didn’t see as many school reconnects in Q3 because we didn’t see as many disconnects in Q2; they couldn’t reconnect if they never disconnected in the first place.”

They also pointed out that if Comcast’s earnings data is sliced differently to compare Q2 and Q3 2021 with the same two quarters of last year “in total, the ‘middle six months’ delivered 11% more subscribers in 2021 than 2020.”

“It seems fairly clear that this is not a competitive issue,” MoffettNathanson concluded, though noted the exact cause of the lower growth rates remains “unclear.”


The operator’s Q3 broadband net additions included 281,000 residential customers and 19,000 business customers. It lost 408,000 video customers and 158,000 voice customers but added a record 285,000 wireless lines.

Comcast’s consolidated revenue grew 18.7% year over year to $30.3 billion in the quarter, with net income jumping nearly 100% to $4.0 billion from $2.0 billion in Q3 2020. Revenue for the Cable Communications division increased 7.4% to $16.1 billion, with broadband revenue within this rising 11.6% to $5.8 billion.

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Capital expenditures for the Cable division fell 5.4% in the quarter to $1.7 billion, as an uptick in spending on line extensions and scalable infrastructure failed to fully offset decreased investment in customer premise equipment.