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Content Distribution, cord cutting, pay tv operators, SVOD, vMVPD
Survey: Just 12% committed to keeping traditional pay-TV in U.S.
Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Just more than one-in-10 people say they intend to keep their cable subscriptions, according to a new survey of Americans who currently have, or have had, cable service.

The nationwide study, by consultant Waterstone Management Group, doesn’t necessarily break any new ground – cord-cutting has been a “thing” for a couple of years – but the surge of respondents saying they plan to dump traditional pay TV has to be startling to operators, who’ve seen erosion of their customer base but have believed it to be coming over a longer term.

According to Waterstone, 59% of the 5,027 survey respondents say they’ve already cut the cord with another 29% saying they were weighing their options. Planning to keep pay-TV? Just 12%. Only 4% of respondents were “cord nevers” (and they were excluded from the results).

The results came from a poll using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, which gets mixed reviews from researchers since the data can skew, but it has been seen as a legitimate research tool among social scientists, so the results are pretty spectacular.

In Q3 2018, pay-TV services saw more than 1.2 million customers walk away, according to media research firm Kagan, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, the industry’s worst quarter ever.

So far, Q4 2018 also has been painful. Verizon, for example, was down 46,000 FiOS video subs, up from the 29,000 it lost last year; Comcast reported it lost 29,000 subs in Q4, in line with the 33,000 subs it lost the previous year.

AT&T, meanwhile, which is the largest pay-TV operator in the U.S. following its acquisition of DirecTV, lost more than 400,000 satellite customers, and also saw an ebbing tide for its Internet pay-TV service, DirecTV Now, which is coming off a series of price-reducing promotions and a $5 per month price hike to boot. DirecTV Now lost 267,000 subscribers in the quarter.

Dish Network, which in Q3 lost a whopping 367,000 video subscribers from its satellite service, while adding 26,000 Sling TV subs, could be in line for another tough quarter.

Virtual pay-TV services like Netflix, YouTube TV and Hulu, along with SVOD services like Netflix and Amazon Prime continue to see strong growth, even while raising prices.

A Hub Research survey of 415 Netflix subscribers showed that 69% said they would be keeping their subscriptions to the service, despite a $2 increase across the HD and 4K plans and a $1 increase on the basic plan. Only 9% said they might cancel the service while 16% said they might downgrade. Surprisingly, 6% said they planned to upgrade.

The bottom line: Americans continue to migrate to SVOD and vMPDs as more premium content and originals come online. With Disney, Apple and NBCUniversal also planning to enter the OTT market before the end of the year, it’s no surprise cord-cutting will accelerate dramatically.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Ooyala. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn

Jim O'Neill

An award-winning industry expert and futurist who specializes in the convergence of traditional TV and the Internet. My focus includes pay TV, Cloud TV, OTT, multiplatform media delivery, the ecosystem that surrounds it and consumer trends. A frequent speaker at CES, NAB, Digital Hollywood, Park’s Associates Connections events, Streaming Media and Digital Entertainment World, among others. I'm the Editor of Videomind, which in the past year has won awards from Editor & Publisher and Digiday. I'm also the Principal Analyst at Ooyala. I'm based in Michigan. I formerly was an analyst at Parks Associates and editor of FierceOnlineVideo and FierceIPTV. 

You can follow on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on Linkedin