Time Warner Cable Reports Record Losses in TV Subscriptions

Customers weren’t happy with the recent CBS vs. TWC mishap, but the channel blackout is only half to blame for these record losses.

It’s only been two months since the CBS blackout ended on Time Warner Cable (TWC) and the results are in. Over 306,000 people retired their cable TV subscriptions in fall quarter. That’s a pretty big dent for just one channel, except CBS also owned Showtime, CW, and a sports network. Leading analyst Craig Moffet said that the victory CBS won here will send a message to the other telecoms that fighting with a major network over its broadcasting fee will end badly. At the end of negotiations TWC ended up paying more than usual not only to CBS, also in a loss of subscribers that were fed up with the blackout.

In addition TWC had to pay out over $15 million to customers who were subscribed to CBS-owned programming but were unable to access it. Would you accept just a refund for losing a month of Showtime? Apparently for some, a refund wasn’t enough to keep them connected.

time warner record losses in cable subscribers

Was all of this just a result of the CBS blackout though? Well, the record numbers are because of the blackout. But, CNNMoney reported that only around 125,000 of the lost subscriptions were because of the blackout, and doesn’t take a genius to see that.Why? Because Comcast, who was unaffected by the CBS debacle, also lost 129,000 customers in Fall quarter this year.  Cable TV subscriptions have been on the decline for some time, and it doesn’t look like things will be getting any better for the networks as more people opt for cutting the cord. On the other hand, high speed internet subscribers are on the rise, so telecoms like TWC aren’t feeling the full effect.



  1. KG

    November 2, 2013 at 6:34 am

    And cable companies keep doing stupid things – Example: Comcast just scrambled all their LOCAL channels (you used to be able to just plug in the coax cable to any set that was newer, that had a QAM tuner, and be able to get a bunch of local channels, which was good for a spare set or two you might have around the house). NOW Comcast requires a descrambling box (which of course you have to pay for), for EVERY set. What could possibly be the benefit to scrambling the LOCAL channels, other than their pure profit?

    I put up a TV antenna, with an amplifier, to take care of my spare sets, as well as I got the Google Chromecast, so I can broadcast TV shows from my PC. It was a little bit of upfront work, but well worth it, just for principle!

    • Austin Krause

      November 2, 2013 at 6:50 am

      This is a good comment KG. Yeah, its kind of a rip that they encrypt the channels and then require one of their boxes to view them. But what it wasn’t purely for profit, per se. What Comcast is actually doing is compressing the channels (like you would when you drop a file into a .zip archive) and the box is uncompressing them. The compression ratio is huge for these streams and saves I think I was reading about 75% bandwidth, which is a big deal when you have 100 million customers getting local channels. The size comparison is similar of when you take a raw .wav audio file and convert it into .mp3, I remember when car stereos first came out that could finally play .mp3’s burnt onto a disc, all they were doing was decompressing the format because previous models couldn’t do that – it’s not to dissimilar – I think some TVs are capable of descrambling the stream without need for the set top box but I’m not up to date on TV tuner tech.

      • KG

        November 2, 2013 at 11:44 am

        That does make sense Austin! So in doing this, Comcast can increase the amount of stuff sent through their lines, and the speed as well. So, they should give everyone a free bump up in internet speeds – that would be nice! NOTE: No sets can descramble the signal w/o a Comcast box anymore, because they did actually scramble the signal as well. Oh well – crazy stuff!

        • Austin Krause

          November 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

          Yeah you are right! I have a very new TV and I just tested it out with my Verizon connection. I only have the basic 15 local channels and I’m unable to view them (it’s just a black screen) without the verizon-provided tuner plugged in.

  2. wheelsey_4

    November 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Damn, I use Time Warner Cable and am seriously thinking about an OTA antenna. Do they, currently, encrypt their local channels also?

  3. KG

    November 2, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    My outdoor antenna initially didn’t work well, but after getting an amplifier (on Amazon), I pick up a ton of stations. The key problem is that the local sports teams are usually only on cable. Other than that, it is perfect!

  4. Scott

    November 3, 2013 at 4:37 am

    I got rid of TV altogether years ago. Except for a very few programs (Sci-Fi Channel stuff mostly) I found not much worth paying to watch. Fortunately I have U-Verse with the 32Mbs speed, Netflix, and the internet. I discovered very little on Discovery and almost no history on History channels these days so there’s zip that interests me on cable. Local news I can get online as well as nearly any other news I want, and a much better picture of things in the bargain because of the multiple sources and opinions online. There’s so much in fact that I don’t get everything else done I plan to in the evenings half the time (I never spent this much time on TV!), but the time spent is a bargain vs the pablum on cable anyway. It’s much more interesting to see what’s on sites like groovyPost than what’s on the latest mindless reality show!

  5. Brian Burgess

    November 4, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    I cut the cable cord years ago. I have an OTA antenna because I need to watch NFL. I have a subscription to Netflix, Amazon Prime for Instant Video — and occasionally purchase TV series seasons for Game of Thrones and a couple others.

    There’s so much available on the web now, I see absolutely no reason to get Cable or Satellite ever again.

    • wheelsey_4

      November 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      What brand of antenna are you using and how far away from the signals are you, Brian?

  6. K.G.

    November 5, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I used a RCA Antenna, with an RCA Amplifier from Amazon (RCA TVPRAMP1R Outdoor Antenna Preamplifier). They work great together! I am 15 or 20 miles from most of the antennas, but it looks like I am picking up antenna/signals that are 40+ miles away….

    • wheelsey_4

      November 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Exterior of house or attic?

  7. KG

    November 7, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Exterior of house.

  8. Tim

    November 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    They will continue to loose massive numbers of customers just due to their customer service alone. From what I’ve seen others deal with from double and triple withdrawals on autopay, customer service that could care less and service that gets cut off even when you have paid, they should expect the loss to accelerate.

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