In a sign of what may be in store this summer for other broadband service providers in North America and elsewhere around the world, Shaw Communications ended a long string of quarterly Internet subscriber gains in its fiscal third quarter, largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 almost 1.8 million wireless subscribers on the residential side — reported late Friday that it shed about 5,100 residential Internet subs in the quarter ending May 31, a reversal of its gain of more than 6,600 subs in the year-ago period. The loss also reduced the company's broadband sub additions for the first nine months of fiscal 2020 to about 6,600, down from over 23,000 a year earlier.
With an additional loss of nearly 22,000 residential cable video, another 110 satellite video subscribers and nearly 22,000 residential cable phone customers, Shaw dropped a total of 55,300 consumer wireline revenue generating units (RGUs) in the third quarter. That represents a heftier loss than a year ago, when it shed approximately 35,200 consumer wireline RGUs. As a result, the company's consumer wireline segment saw its revenues slip 1.3% to C$923 million ($678 million US), down 1.3% on a year-over-year basis.
In its earnings report Friday, the large Canadian provider blamed the broadband sub losses on "lower new customer activity and promotions primarily related to COVID-19."
The broadband sub losses came despite Shaw's rollout of its new Fibre+ Gig Internet service, which offers 1 Gig downstream speeds to more than 99% of its residential customers. The cableco, which mainly competes against a similar 1-Gig offering from Bell Canada, launched the service nationwide in late May.
In one silver lining from the first few pandemic months, Shaw boosted its self-install rate of new equipment in customer homes to 72%, forestalling the need for its technicians to enter most homes. In another silver lining, the operator lowered its churn rates for broadband and other subscribers.
For more on Shaw's Q3 financial results, please turn to our Light Reading sister site.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading