High Speed Internet Subscription Out-Pace TV Subscriptions For The First Time

For the first time in the history of everything, cable TV providers now have more high speed Internet subscribers than pay TV customers, according to data gathered by Leichtman Research Group. The gap is narrow -- there were 49,915,000 broadband subscribers at the end of the second quarter in 2014 versus around 49,910,000 cable TV customers -- but it's important to note nonetheless.

Hollywood studios and premium television networks have been fighting the push to streaming delivery by insisting on antiquated business models and fees that made sense before companies like Netflix and Hulu existed. It's telling that you still can't subscribe to channels like HBO and Showtime through these services, yet the potential customer base is even larger on the streaming side than it is on cable TV.

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The gap will only get bigger with time. According to LRG, there were 385,000 broadband additions in the second quarter of 2014, up 130 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago. Top cable companies accounted for 99 percent of those net additions, with the remaining signing up through top telephone companies. That gives the top cable companies a 59 percent share of the market.

Beyond the streaming revolution that big media has been slow to embrace, these numbers also matter as they relate to Comcast's attempt to acquire Time Warner Cable (TWC). Comcast and TWC hammered out a deal worth around $45.2 billion, and if approved, Comcast would gain 30 million subscribers. Critics like Dish Network oppose the deal because it would give Comcast too much control over the pay TV market. What these numbers also reveal is that not only would Comcast own 30 percent of the cable TV market if the deal goes through, but around 40 percent of the broadband market as well.