AT&T customers exit in droves as teleco looks to upend TV

Evolving consumer behavior continues to challenge traditional media giants.

Two key measures, U.S. wireless and pay-TV subscribers, came in well below predictions in the fourth quarter. AT&T added a net 13,000 U.S. monthly wireless subscribers in the period, way under projections of about 252,000. A loss of 410,000 users of non-phone devices like smartwatches and tablets drove the disappointment.

AT&T fell victim in part to the same phenomenon that’s bedeviling Apple and other phone makers: People are hanging onto their smartphones longer. The Dallas-based company’s phone sales fell $500 million in the recent quarter due to sluggish upgrades, Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said on an earnings conference call.

AT&T also lost 658,000 U.S. pay-TV subscribers, compared with the loss of about 191,000 anticipated by analysts.

The figures look even worse in contrast with AT&T’s biggest rivals in mobile services. Although Verizon Communications reported downbeat fourth-quarter sales on Tuesday, that company and T-Mobile US Inc. each gained 1.2 million new wireless subscribers in the quarter. AT&T’s monthly defection rate, or churn, rose to 1.2 percent from 1.1 percent a year ago.

Why it’s hot?

Brands need to operate their businesses nimbly. They have to evolve into light weight operations, such as RPA, that will allow them to adopt new business models more fluidly.