Comcast still world's No. 1 pay-TV operator, but maybe not for long

Comcast Corp. remained the world's largest pay-TV provider last year with nearly 22 million subscribers, but the Philadelphia-based giant soon could lose that bragging right to an Asian company.

Explosive growth in the number of pay-TV customers in Asia comes as U.S.-based cable companies have struggled to hold on to video customers in an increasingly splintered market.

Comcast last year just edged out China's Jiangsu Broadcasting Cable Information Network, the top multichannel provider in the Asia Pacific region with nearly 21 million customers, according to a report released Monday by SNL Kagan.

Next was China Telecom, a phone company that also offers Internet-based TV service, with 19.4 million pay-TV customers.

At the end of 2012, "the top 10 Asia Pacific operators each served more than 10 million video subscribers and still are on track for further growth," SNL Kagan said in its report.

U.S. companies increasingly have focused on signing high-speed Internet customers to help keep profits robust.  Comcast has more broadband subscribers -- more than 19.4 million -- than any other North American firm.  AT&T was not too far behind with 16.4 million subscribers, followed by Time Warner Cable Inc. with 11.4 million.

But Chinese firms are the undisputed champs in providing Internet service. China Telecom was the world's No. 1 fixed broadband provider, reaching more than 90 million high-speed Internet customers, SNL Kagan said. China Unicom ranked second with nearly 64 million subscribers.