While Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) made noise last week in announcing its best video subscriber performance in nine years, it quietly furthered an emerging trend in the pay-TV business -- that is, the practice of rolling customer acquisitions from fledgling streaming operations into one big video customer number.
Indeed, lost in the fact that Comcast added 89,000 video customers in the fourth quarter was that some of those adds came not from traditional bundles, but from services like Xfinity Stream and Xfinity On Campus.
With Stream only available in Boston and Chicago at this point, the accounting move by Comcast doesn't seem to have resulted in a significant investor blowback, at least not yet. "Stream is in the numbers, but I don't think it moves the needle a lot," UBS analyst John Hodulik told Investor's Business Daily.
Comcast representatives have not yet responded to FierceCable's inquiry for comment.
Meanwhile, Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), which reports its fourth-quarter numbers on Feb. 18, is being closely watched for this practice.
Dish reported net pay-TV subscriber losses of 23,000 for the third quarter, compared to a decline of 5,000 in the same period of 2014. Dish's figure includes its customer additions for Sling TV, the streaming video service it launched back in February. But the company is not saying how much Sling is contributing to its bottom line in terms of customer growth.
Evercore ISI analyst Vijay Jayant said the actual attrition to Dish's core satellite business in the third quarter was in the range of 90,000 to 140,000, which "is a bit higher than estimated."
Dish said it lost 81,000 subscribers in the second quarter, a figure analysts said was also masked partly by Sling TV gains.
- read this Investor's Business Daily story
Comcast adds 89K video subs in Q4, best quarter in nine years
Dish loses 23K subscribers in Q3; analysts suspect Sling TV helped bolster satellite TV business