COVID-19, the novel coronavirus of 2019, is affecting every industry in every sector and cable is no exception. Some industry analysts view cable as one of the businesses most likely to survive the economic impact of the virus.
Many financial experts warn that we are headed into a recession that will rival the great depression of the mid-1900s. Cable, though, stands a chance of weathering the recession better than other platforms. While we can’t know the full impact of the virus yet, analysts can make predictions based on past behaviors, including those of the 2008/2009 recession.
Some suspect that COVID-19 will both help and impair the cable business depending on what aspect of the industry you consider. Every element will see lasting effects, including everything from cable TV to cable internet and business services.
Charter Communications (Spectrum), one of the largest cable service providers in the US, is among the providers most likely to survive the virus-induced crisis. While the company is positioned to weather the COVID-19 recession better than most, not every aspect of the business will do well.
Here’s a rundown of how each sector of the company is predicted to fair:
Since the start of the coronavirus lockdowns across the US, Spectrum internet has seen an uptick in internet speed upgrades. Ironically, the majority of the upgrades are coming from consumers who are cutting the cord and switching from cable TV to streaming services. It is unlikely that many people will downgrade their speeds as Charter offers a wide range of packages at different price points to meet consumer’s needs.
However, new subscriber growth will likely slow down, and they’ll have fewer new service installs. This will result in damage to share gains that might never recover.
Overall, Charter will take a hit from fewer new household subscriptions, which is typically a key driver for the company. The speed upgrades and the loss in the subscriptions will cancel each other out as the recession hits and continues.
Analysts expect the cord-cutting movement to accelerate during the recession, causing significant ripple effects throughout the industry. More people will move from cable TV to streaming platform subscriptions. The upside to the movement is that switching to streaming causes many consumers to increase their internet speeds.
Streaming platforms have long been lauded as the new way to watch TV, offering lower prices than traditional cable television. Consumers that have not yet cut the cord will feel the urge to move forward as a way to save money while still enjoying entertainment services. This directly affects the number of new households subscribing to cable TV. The slowdown in subscriptions will vary depending on how severe the recession ends up becoming.
The business services sector will see lasting effects from COVID-19 as many businesses close forever, and companies that remain open try to find new ways to save money. Small and mid-size companies make up a significant portion of commercial cable TV subscribers, and it is these businesses that likely won’t survive the recession.
The commercial market makes up about 14% of Charter’s cable TV revenue, and 60% of that comes from small and mid-size businesses. The degree to which the virus impacts smaller companies is still uncertain as some are receiving stimulus loans from the federal government. However, at this point, many businesses who applied for those loans have either not yet heard back from their banks or were already denied the loans.
Charter recently entered the wireless industry, and their building momentum will experience a set back from COVID-19. Fewer consumers will go out of their way to change service providers during the crisis, and even when the coronavirus is more or less tamed, users may not want to disrupt their current service or pay to upgrade their devices.
In 2019, Charter wireless services were less than 2% of the company’s consolidated revenues. With fewer new subscriptions, that number will fall lower. Charter is expecting to take a harder hit than wireless giants like AT&T and Verizon.
Despite the numerous setbacks, Charter is still set to handle the crisis better than many other companies. Enough elements are going well that will continue to see improvement regardless of the coronavirus. Some analysts forecast that not only will Charter handle the recession in stride, but they may also see some earnings growth in 2020 and beyond.