Even as it achieved improved overall financial results, Shaw Communications slogged through a disappointing summer on the broadband front as it shed high-speed data customers for the second straight quarter.
Shaw – one of the two largest communications service providers in Canada with 1.9 million Internet, over 1.4 million cable video, nearly 700,000 satellite video and close to 1.8 million wireless subscribers on the residential side – reported on Friday a loss of 14,500 residential Internet subs for the quarter ending Aug. 31. That fiscal Q4 sub loss, which followed a decline of 5,100 broadband subs in fiscal Q3, reversed a gain of approximately 11,400 subs in the year-ago period.
The surprising Q4 decline also resulted in Shaw shedding nearly 8,000 high-speed data subs for all of fiscal 2020, lowering its total sub count to just over 1.9 million. That makes the Canadian MSO one of a select few major North American cable operators to see its broadband sub base actually shrink over the past year even as the COVID-19 pandemic forced most of its customers to hunker down at home.
The second consecutive quarterly sub loss came despite Shaw's launch of its new Fiber+ 1-Gig broadband service and its equally new broadband-centric Shaw Mobile service during the late spring and summer. Both offerings are designed to make Shaw more competitive in its predominantly western Canadian markets, where the operator matches up largely against Telus.
On their earnings call with analysts Friday, Shaw executives acknowledged that the Q4 broadband picture was not pretty and that they have not kept up with the competition. "For a number of years, we were, frankly, losing ground to Telus in terms of the way the customers perceived our wireline network, specifically the Internet product," said Shaw President Paul McAleese on the call, as he noted "the softness" in broadband subscriber gains for the quarter.
But Shaw officials argued that the rollout of their new 1-Gig service, another new high-speed tier and new pricing plans in late May, followed by the launch of their new broadband-bundled Shaw Mobile service in late July and the opening of more mobile shops over the summer, will make the operator more competitive with Telus and start turning things around. Although they couldn't point to any improved sub figures for the latest quarter, they expect to see better results over time.
"I would not expect to see a dramatic turnaround in our numbers over the course of this quarter," McAlesse said, while describing himself as "impatient" to see improvement. "You know, it is a process, and it's going to take some time... These things don't happen overnight. But I like the plan that we have."
For more on Shaw's latest quarterly results, please visit this story over on our sister site, Light Reading: COVID-19 drags down Shaw's quarterly sub totals .
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading