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Charter surpasses Comcast as top U.S. TV provider

Data: Company earnings reports; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Company earnings reports; Chart: Axios Visuals

Charter is now the country's largest pay-TV provider solely because it lost fewer customers than everyone else.

Why it matters: Charter is trying to keep the pay-TV industry afloat by reimagining its distribution deals with content providers. Now it has the influence of being the biggest game in town.

By the numbers: Charter had been nipping at Comcast's heels for the past year but now holds a narrow lead of just 16,000 subscribers.

  • Over the past three years, Comcast has lost more than 5 million subscribers, while Charter has shed 1.9 million.

The big picture: The pay-TV bundle is in the middle of an existential crisis.

  • Amid its public carriage dispute with Disney last year, Charter threatened to leave the pay-TV business entirely, calling the model "broken." The result? A new deal with Disney that included some of its streaming services and fewer channels.
  • Charter inked a similar deal in January with TelevisaUnivision. It's carriage deal with Paramount expires this spring.

Yes, but: A potentially more dire issue for cable companies is their decline in broadband customers. Despite its new title as Pay-TV King, Charter's stock price has plummeted on a larger-than-expected decline in broadband subscribers.

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