Hey there! As you flip through television channels trying to find something to watch, you may sometimes wonder – who actually provides this cable TV service? And how did they become some of the biggest cable companies in America?
These major cable providers play a huge role in shaping the entertainment, news, and information that reaches our screens every day. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll countdown the 10 largest cable companies in the U.S. and unpack everything you need to know about their history, offerings, financials, subscribership, and more.
Understanding who dominates this massively influential industry provides key insights into the past, present, and future of television in America. So let‘s dive in and explore the cable empires that pipe content into millions of homes across the country each day!
Counting Down the Top 10 Largest Cable Providers in the U.S.
The U.S. cable industry generated a whopping $97 billion in revenue in 2021, up from $93 billion in 2020. While streaming has disrupted the sector, the biggest cable companies still command huge market share through their bundled TV, internet, and phone services.
Let‘s start the countdown of the 10 largest cable providers in the U.S., ranked by their 2021 cable TV revenue.
#10. Cable One – $1.02 billion revenue
Cable One ranks 10th among U.S. cable providers, offering cable TV, internet, and phone service under its Sparklight brand. Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Phoenix, AZ, Cable One now serves over 1 million residential and business customers in 21 states.
In 2021, Cable One generated $1.02 billion in total revenue. This marked a 2.2% decline from its $1.04 billion revenue in 2020. The company attributes this drop primarily to losing 21,000 video subscribers in Q4 2021 amid the rise of streaming.
Cable One ended 2021 with 247,000 cable TV customers, down from 268,000 in 2020. So while not the biggest player, Cable One just squeezes into the top 10 among U.S. cable providers.
#9. Mediacom – $2 billion revenue
Mediacom Communications is a smaller regional cable company founded in 1995 and based in Blooming Grove, NY. It offers cable TV, high-speed internet, and phone service to homes and businesses in 22 states, focused primarily on rural Midwestern and Southern areas.
In 2021, Mediacom increased revenue 2% year-over-year to $2 billion. However, the company lost 10,000 pay TV subscribers in 2021, ending the year with just 510,000 video customers.
Mediacom is privately owned by founder Rocco Commisso, allowing it to rank #9 on this list despite its small size compared to national giants like Comcast and Charter.
#8. Altice USA – $6.9 billion revenue
Altice USA operates the Optimum and Suddenlink cable brands, providing broadband, TV, mobile, and phone services across 20 states.
Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Long Island City, NY, Altice serves over 4.5 million U.S. customers today. However, the company has been losing subscribers amid rising competition, including from streaming video.
In 2021, Altice USA‘s revenue declined 6.7% year-over-year to $6.9 billion. Altice also reported losing 237,700 pay TV subscribers in 2021, dropping to 3.09 million video customers remaining.
The company was recently taken private after founder Patrick Drahi acquired all outstanding shares in 2021. Even with its subscriber losses, Altice remains a top 10 cable provider.
#7. Frontier Communications – $6.4 billion revenue
Frontier Communications, founded in 1935, is based in Norwalk, CT and offers fiber-optic internet, TV, and phone services to over 25 states.
After declaring bankruptcy in 2020, Frontier reemerged as a private company in 2021 with renewed efforts to expand and upgrade its fiber network.
In its first year post-bankruptcy, Frontier generated $6.4 billion in revenue in 2021. However, Frontier continued losing pay TV subscribers, dropping 75,000 video customers to end 2021 with just 485,000 remaining.
As Frontier works to improve its next-generation fiber optic service, it holds steady as a major cable and internet provider.
#6. Cox Communications – $12 billion revenue
Cox Communications serves over 6 million customers across 18 states, offering cable TV, home internet, phone, and smart home security. Founded in 1962 and headquartered in Atlanta, it remains one of the largest private broadband companies in America.
In 2021, Cox increased revenue 2.8% year-over-year to $12 billion. However, like many cable providers, Cox lost 204,000 pay TV subscribers last year amid cord-cutting, dropping to about 3.2 million video customers.
Despite the subscriber losses, Cox still enjoys strong brand recognition and market position as a leading regional cable provider.
#5. DISH Network – $17.9 billion revenue
Founded in 1980 and headquartered in Englewood, CO, DISH Network (stylized as DISH) is a large U.S. satellite TV provider. DISH competes with traditional cable by beaming programming down from satellites to customers‘ dishes.
In 2021, DISH increased revenue 10.3% year-over-year to $17.9 billion. However, like other pay TV providers, DISH lost 233,000 satellite TV subscribers last year amid rising streaming competition. This dropped DISH to 8.2 million video customer, down from 11 million in 2016.
As one of only two major satellite TV providers alongside rival DirecTV, DISH holds firm as a top 5 cable company in the U.S. today.
#4. Verizon Fios – $25 billion revenue
Verizon Fios provides next-generation fiber optic TV, internet, and digital phone services to over 5 million U.S. homes and businesses.
First launched in 2005 and based in New York, NY, Fios competes with traditional cable by offering fiber internet speeds up to 940 Mbps along with its pay TV service.
In 2021, Verizon Fios increased total revenue 4.6% to $25 billion. However, Fios lost 290,000 video subscribers last year, dropping to 3.65 million cable TV customers in 2021.
Thanks to fast, reliable fiber speeds, competitive channel bundles, and availability in 9 northeastern states, Fios remains a top cable choice even amid industry turbulence.
#3. AT&T – $29.7 billion revenue
AT&T is a telecom and media juggernaut offering mobile, TV, internet, and phone services to tens of millions of U.S. customers.
Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Dallas, TX, AT&T provides cable TV under their U-Verse brand along with live and on-demand shows delivered through their DirecTV satellite subsidiary.
In 2021, AT&T generated $29.7 billion in revenue from video services overall. However, between DirecTV and U-Verse, AT&T lost a total of 620,000 pay TV subscribers, dropping to 15.4 million.
Thanks to acquisitions like DirecTV and availability in 21 states, AT&T retains its spot among the top cable providers for now. But increasing competition from streaming looms large.
#2. Charter Communications (Spectrum) – $51.7 billion revenue
Charter Communications runs the Spectrum cable TV brand available across 41 states. Offering cable, internet, voice, and mobile services, Charter completed a major merger with Time Warner Cable in 2016 to become the nation‘s second largest cable company.
In 2021, Charter increased total revenue 2.8% to $51.7 billion. But Charter lost another 262,000 video subscribers last year amid cord cutting, dropping to 15.6 million cable TV customers.
Despite the subscriber losses, Charter continues major network investments, including upgrading to gigabit internet speeds, to reinforce its position as the #2 largest cable provider.
#1. Comcast Xfinity – $116.4 billion revenue
Comcast is undisputedly the largest cable provider in America, offering cable TV, broadband, phone, and smart home services under its Xfinity brand.
Founded in 1963 and headquartered in Philadelphia, Comcast now serves over 31 million homes and businesses across 40 states and Washington D.C.
In 2021, Comcast increased revenue 10.9% year-over-year to a massive $116.4 billion. However, like other pay TV providers, Comcast lost 473,000 video subscribers last year amid cord-cutting. This dropped Comcast‘s cable TV customers to 16.3 million.
Thanks to its unrivaled scale and availability, Comcast retains the top spot as the #1 cable company in the U.S. today. But it faces increasing pressure to adapt as streaming gains momentum.
So there you have it – the 10 largest cable companies in America ranked by 2021 revenue along with key stats on their subscribers, services, and history! Next let‘s look at…
How Streaming Threatens the Future of Cable TV
While cable giants like Comcast and Charter still sit comfortably atop the industry today, their decades-long domination of TV is under existential threat from streaming video.
On-demand streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ have given millions of consumers an appealing alternative to traditional cable TV bundles. The flexibility, lower prices, and growing content libraries of streaming options are drawing more and more viewers away each year.
In fact, 2021 marked a major milestone – for the first time, the number of U.S. households subscribing to a streaming service surpassed the number paying for cable TV. Over 77% of U.S. homes now subscribe to at least one streaming platform, while cable TV penetration dropped to 56%.
Just last year alone, over 5 million Americans cut the cord by canceling their cable TV subscriptions completely. This pushed total cable subscribers down to about 62.6 million, dropping nearly 20% from their peak of 100 million subscribers in 2010.
The rise of streaming combined with soaring cable prices has especially driven younger audiences away from pay TV. 36% of consumers aged 18-29 do not subscribe to any traditional pay TV service today, relying entirely on lower-cost streaming alternatives.
These grim subscriber losses for cable are projected to continue as streaming provides greater convenience and choice. eMarketer forecasts U.S. cable subscribers will plunge another 18% by 2024.
While still holding strong overall, the top cable companies are feeling the heat. Between 2010 to 2020, industry leaders like Comcast lost over 7 million video subscribers, while Time Warner and AT&T each lost over 5 million. This mass exodus shows no signs of slowing down.
How Cable Providers Are Adapting to the Streaming Era
To their credit, many cable companies are evolving their businesses to fit the streaming world. Some key ways they are adapting include:
Launching their own streaming platforms – Comcast‘s Peacock, Charter‘s Spectrum TV App, Cox Contour, and AT&T TV all let cable subscribers access live, on-demand, and DVR streaming.
Offering skinny bundles – Altice One, Xfinity Stream, and other low-cost TV packages aim to keep cord-cutters by streaming a slimmer channel lineup at reduced prices.
Improving broadband – With video revenue declining, cable companies are investing heavily in upgrading broadband speeds and performance to appeal to streamers.
Bundling services – Bundling broadband, wireless, TV, and smart home services makes it tougher for customers to cut every cord.
Targeting niches – Some cable providers are chasing niche audiences, such as live sports viewers, that streaming has not fully replicated.
Despite their efforts, analysts remain skeptical about cable TV‘s chances in the long run. The convenience and economics of streaming may simply be too compelling for younger generations.
While cable cash cows like Comcast and Charter likely have many years left, their decades of market dominance appear to be waning. How well they pivot to streaming themselves may determine if they can stay competitive in the 21st century video landscape.
The Bottom Line
In summary, while cable TV still holds a strong market position today, the rise of lower-cost streaming alternatives with greater flexibility is steadily eroding the subscriber counts and revenues of even the largest cable companies.
Industry leaders like Comcast, Charter, and AT&T cling to their top spots for now thanks to their bundled services, brand recognition, and breadth of coverage. However, their dominance is weakening each year as millions of households migrate to on-demand streaming instead.
How well these cable giants adapt to the disruption brought by Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and others remains to be seen. Their legacy cash cow of cable TV appears to be a slowly melting block of ice.
Yet in the meantime, understanding who the major cable providers are and the state of their battle with streaming provides key insights into the evolving TV business. This historic industry that shapes news, entertainment and communications for millions of Americans seems primed for continued turmoil ahead!
I hope this overview helped shed light on the 10 biggest cable companies in America and the tremendous changes underway in how we watch television today. Let me know if you have any other questions as we witness this digital evolution together!