Monday, April 29, 2019

1Q19 Verizon Prepaid – Sustained Losses but It’s OK?

It’s almost like a broken record that the Verizon prepaid group continues to lose subscribers quarter after quarter. In fact,  the company has lost subscribers for the last six quarters. In tracking over 17 quarters, 14 have been losses.  

Here’s the breakdown for year ending:

2015 – 551,000
2016 – 133,000
2017 – 43,000
2018 – 757,000

These for years total over 1.48 million lost subscribers.  Add 1Q19’s 176,000 losses and the tally is over 1.6M. In late January, following the Verizon earnings call, I noted these continued losses and CFO Ellis then paid lip service to note that they’re going to evolve their offerings over time. For this quarter, CFO Ellis noted that the quarter’s losses were better than 1Q18’s -355,000, seemingly putting a "it's not that bad" spin on things.  The party line had always been allowing the shedding of low (profit) and price sensitive customers with the retention of high-value monthly plan subscribers who don’t mind paying premium for the Verizon brand/coverage.  That thought is also goes hand in hand with migrating the voice/text phone-only people off or help transition them to smartphone plans.

Why it still doesn’t matter: Verizon is first and foremost a postpaid company with marketing and retention dollars better served on the postpaid side. Prepaid is highly contested as two  players have dominated prepaid over last 3 years years, AT&T (Cricket) and T-Mobile (Metro by T-Mobile). The two have taken the lion’s share of the prepaid net additions and they will continue to do so as their distribution into non-urban areas expand.    At the end of 1Q19, Verizon’s retail base was close to crossing 118M.  The 4.48M prepaid count is just 3.8% overall. Then there’s the revenue.  If Verizon’s prepaid ARPU is in mid-high 30s and its postpaid ARPA in the $130s (no apples-to-apples, I know), one can see why prepaid just isn’t a huge priority.