People are watching more TV than ever as they're stuck at home, looking for diversions to pass the time. By some counts, cable TV viewership is up 31%. That's a huge boon to an industry that's been lagging behind cord-cutter friendly streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But that 31% jump in viewership pales in comparing to a whopping 66% surge that streaming services are now seeing.
So, even with the cable-TV viewership surge, providers are failing to gain new followers on social in a sign that any temporary gains may be just that: temporary.
One recent outlier is Spectrum, which offered up 60 days of free WiFi in mid-March as a way to get students online for remote learning, which is experiencing a surge in followers and chatter. The move was part of the FCC's "Keep Americans Connected" pledge, which led several cable and internet providers to offer up everything from payment grace periods, to unlimited data, to free access.
We looked at Facebook following and "talking about" counts for Xfinity, Spectrum, DirecTV, ATT U-verse, DISH, Sling, and Verizon Fios to see how the cable TV industry is doing on social. In short, all of them are down. Here's what we're seeing.
Spectrum: a goodwill boost
In mid-March, Charter Communication ($CHTR) Spectrum's Facebook following and "talking about" counts both saw a surge. The number of daily mentions for the brand on the world's largest social network nearly doubled in just days, and its follower count trend — which had been declining since September 2018 — turned positive. That's because the company announced around that time that it would offer free internet to students stuck at home during the Coronavirus outbreak. As we see in the time series above, the gesture paid off, at least in terms of social media sentiment.
Xfinity: good will but little benefit
Like Spectrum, Comcast's ($CMCSA) Xfinity service offered up free Wi-Fi for 60 days. It also suspended data and bandwidth caps for customers. The move generated a lot of chatter for the brand — daily "talking about" count surged from around 12,000 to 106,000 between March and April. However, what little uptick Xfinity saw in follower count has since declined back to a sustained erosion that began two years ago. Back then, Xfinity enjoyed more than 6.3 million Facebook followers. Today, that number is down to 6.13 million.
Verizon Fios: good gesture, little love
Right around the same time that Spectrum and Xfinity were announcing their good-will gestures for students, Verizon ($VZ) announced that it would Fios service waive late fees for both small businesses and residents. But it didn't go so far as to offer free access. The announcement was followed by a noticeable surge in the brand's "talking about" count on Facebook. However, its follower count failed to follow suit outside of a small bump.
DirecTV, DISH, Sling: years of social decline
As for DirecTV ($T), DISH ($DISH), and Sling, things are slowing on the Facebook follower and chatter front. DirecTV saw a boost in "talking about" count in February before things went awry, but that appears to be related to a stream of negative news related to a top executive's departure.
In early 2020, legacy cable TV providers lost a reported 4 million TV subscribers. At the same time, Netflix has picked up a reported 41% reach of the TV-watching world. Just yesterday, Netflix reported better-than-expected earnings after a quarter that included subscriber gains and one of the hottest new TV shows, Tiger King.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.
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