Comcast Cable added 323,000 high-speed internet customers in its second quarter 2020, resulting in its best second quarter in 13 years. That number does not even include over 600,000 additional high-risk or free internet essentials customers that are receiving Comcast’s internet service as part of its Covid-19 Keep Americans Connected pledge. “We'll only count these customers once they are in paid status,” said Dave Watson, President and CEO of Comcast Cable, on today’s earnings call.
Watson said the 600,000 customers reflect a combination of free internet essentials customers and a reserve that Comcast set up for the high-risk customers that are in a non-pay status but are still receiving service. Watson said Comcast is “going to constantly work with” its customers who are having difficulty paying. “It's early to predict the conversion rate,” he said.
In addition to the help it provided customers via its free internet essentials, Comcast is also keeping its 1.5 million out-of-home, public Wi-Fi hotspots available for free through the end of this year.
Watson also touted Comcast’s xFi pods, which are Wi-Fi extenders that enhance Wi-Fi coverage throughout homes that have Xfinity internet service. Good in-home Wi-Fi coverage has become more important than ever with so many families working and studying from home.
The 323,000 high-speed internet customers added in the quarter are net from 340,000 residential adds and 17,000 business losses.
“Comcast’s broadband subscriber growth rate has continued to accelerate, ticking higher for the fourth straight quarter and, at 5.8% YoY now approaching growth rates we haven’t seen since 2016,” writes Moffett Nathanson analyst Craig Moffett in a research note today.
But Moffett worried a bit about business services losses. “In the past, this segment was a perennial positive and a key engine of growth,” he wrote. “With small business bankruptcies looming, it is now a potential trouble spot.”
Comcast’s CFO Mike Cavanagh said residential high-speed data net adds are off to a solid start in July, and he expects residential growth to accelerate. “While we anticipate third quarter business services revenue growth will moderate as a result of the subscriber losses we experienced in the second quarter, we are already seeing sequential albeit modest improvement in net additions,” said Cavanagh.
Cable was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult quarter for Comcast. Overall, Comcast reported revenue of $23.7 billion, a decrease of 11.7% year over year. And adjusted earnings per share decreased 11.5% to $0.69. Although the second quarter financials reflected strong results in cable, those results were more than offset by declines in other parts of Comcast’s business, primarily at NBCUniversal, and costs associated with its new Peacock streaming service.
Asked if Comcast planned to participate in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auctions, Watson said, “We decided not to participate in this round of the rural digital opportunity fund. And the main reason was in this round, there are relatively few adjacent rural areas to offset the additional regulatory costs associated with the auction.
Although it’s not participating in RDOF at this time, Watson said Comcast continues to pursue edge expansion into new areas. “If you go back and you look at expansion, which includes edge extensions but also areas of pockets within our footprint, we've increased more than two million passings,” said Watson. “We'll continue to address opportunities in rural as they come up over time.”