Top 9 cable, satellite and telco pay-TV operators in Q3: Ranking Comcast to TWC to Charter to Cablevision

Now that the third-quarter earnings season is over, it's time to sift through the rubble. FierceCable has assembled a complete look at the third-quarter earnings season, ranking the top cable, satellite and telco pay-TV operators and offering a look at their performance in a number of key metrics, including subscriber growth and average revenues per user (ARPU).

To see our full reporting on the third quarter, click here. And to see how this report changed from the previous quarter, click here.

First, let's look at the top pay-TV operators, ranked by number of subscribers. This list, from Strategy Analytics, ranks the nation's operators and provides their quarterly net adds/losses and ARPU:

Top US Pay TV Service Provider Metrics Q3 2015 (ranking by subscribers)
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  Service Provider Platform Subscribers (millions) Net Adds ARPU*
1 AT&T IPTV + Satellite 26.159 -40,000 $114.40
2 Comcast Cable 22.258 -48,000 $143.12
3 Dish Network Satellite 13.909 -23,000 $86.33
4 Time Warner Cable Cable 10.767 -7,000 $76.06
5 Verizon IPTV 5.807 42,000 n/a
6 Cox Cable 4.158 -40,000 n/a
7 Charter Cable 4.132 12,000 $92.21
*Comcast ARPU is Total Blended ARPU, All others are Video ARPU
Source: Strategy Analytics' Digital Television Operator Performance Benchmarking: North America

"Subscriber losses really slowed this quarter, so that is positive news for the operators and reflects our position that cord cutting has been overblown," said Jason Blackwell, director of service provider strategies in Strategy Analytics' Digital Consumer Practice. "Of course, we believe that TV is fundamentally changing, and new services like managed OTT (like Sling TV or the TWC Roku trial) and skinny bundles will have an impact. ARPUs are down slightly from the second quarter, but generally still higher than 3Q14. These new services may start to put some pressure on Video ARPUs, but they are also dramatically lowering subscriber acquisition costs."

To put these numbers into context, the analysts an investment banking firm Evercore ISI offer a look at how the operators break out in terms of market share:

In a separate research report, Leichtman Research Group found that the thirteen largest pay-TV providers in the United States, representing about 95 percent of the market, lost about 190,000 net video subscribers in the third quarter of this year. The firm said the the top pay-TV providers account for 94.0 million subscribers, and that the top nine cable companies account for 48.8 million video subscribers.

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at 
End of 3Q 2015
Net Adds in 
3Q 2015
Cable Companies
Comcast 22,258,000 (48,000)
Time Warner Cable 10,977,000 (5,000)
Charter 4,274,000 16,000
Cablevision 2,604,000 (33,000)
Suddenlink 1,094,100 (8,500)
Mediacom 862,000 (17,000)
Cable ONE 380,807 (14,193)
Other major private companies* 6,360,000 (35,000)
Total Top Cable 48,809,907 (144,693)
Satellite TV Companies (DBS)
DirecTV^ 19,570,000 26,000
DISH^^ 13,909,000 (23,000)
Total DBS 33,479,000 (3,000)
Telephone Companies
AT&T U-verse 5,880,000 (91,000)
Verizon FiOS 5,807,000 42,000
Total Top Phone 11,687,000 (49,000)
Total Top Pay-TV Providers 93,975,907 (190,693)

Next, Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson provides an additional look at the performance of the nation's top pay TV operators in the second quarter with these key slides:

Dawson also ranks the top 9 pay-TV operators in the United States and shows how their subscriber bases have changed during the past year:

Top 9 Q3 2014 Q4 2014 Q1 2015 Q2 2015 Q3 2015
AT&T-DirecTV 25,316 25,537 25,646 25,490 25,424
Comcast 22,376 22,383 22,375 22,306 22,258
DirecTV 19,468 19,617 19,677 19,544 19,570
DISH 14,041 13,978 14,013 13,932 13,909
Time Warner Cable 10,827 10,789 10,819 10,774 10,767
AT&T 5,848 5,920 5,969 5,946 5,854
Verizon 5,533 5,649 5,739 5,765 5,807
Charter 4,157 4,160 4,153 4,120 4,132
Cablevision 2,715 2,681 2,653 2,637 2,604

Next MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett checks in with a different look at the overall pay TV industry, with a chart showing the subscriber growth of the pay TV market from 2006 to the third quarter of 2015:

Finally, the analysts at Evercore look at the overall penetration of pay TV from 2013 to the third quarter of this year, according to data from the companies, Evercore itself, SNL Kagan and the U.S. Census Bureau's Housing Vacancy Survey.

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Top 9 cable, satellite and telco pay-TV operators in Q3: Ranking Comcast to TWC to Charter to Cablevision