27% Of Cable TV Subscribers Will Cut The Cord This Year

from the there's-more-where-that-came-from dept

The cable industry was already struggling last year, when a record number of cable customers "cut the cord" and flocked to over the air or streaming alternatives. That was before a pandemic came to town. Now, with live sports less consistent and folks desperate to cut costs as they struggle to pay rent, the trend simply exploded in 2020. The number of folks still paying for traditional cable has now dropped 22.8% from pay TV's peak back in 2014. But by the end of 2024, analysts expect that fewer than half of US homes will subscribe to a traditional pay TV service.

It's a trend that's expected to accelerate dramatically in 2021. One new survey by The Trade Desk indicates that another 27 percent of US households are planning to cut cable TV from their budgets this year:

"American households are cutting the cord on their cable subscriptions more rapidly than previously reported, according to the second Future of TV survey of more than 2,100 U.S. consumers by The Trade Desk (Nasdaq: TTD). The data shows 27 percent of U.S. cable TV subscribers are planning to cut their subscriptions by the end of 2021. That percentage is nearly double the 15 percent of cable subscribers who reported cutting the cord in 2020, and significantly higher than the approximate 3 percent annual decline reported by eMarketer prior to 2020."

That's quite an explosion for a trend that cable and broadcast executives have spent the last decade trying to pretend wasn't actually happening (it was), wasn't a big deal (it was), was only something poor losers do (studies have repeatedly proven this claim false) or would rebound once Millennials began seriously procreating (that didn't happen). At every step of the way executives have been wrong about this phenomenon.

Even as the data clearly showed that consumers were cutting traditional, expensive cable TV service even faster than ever, some cable execs and analysts continued to try and claim that 2020 and 2021 would see a reversal in this trend. Again, that's simply not true:

"COVID has accelerated cord-cutting trends that were already underway, to a point where less than 50 percent of U.S. households today have a cable subscription. It’s not because U.S. consumers have fallen out of love with TV, but that there are now more convenient ways of consuming it. That even applies to traditional cable mainstays, such as live sports,” said Tim Sims, Chief Revenue Officer, The Trade Desk. “As more broadcasters launch and expand their streaming services, these gaps are only going to widen."

Don't feel too badly for cable and telecom giants, however. With a neutered FCC and little competition, most providers are simply planning to recoup their pound of lost flesh by doubling down on broadband rate hikes thanks to persistent monopolization we refuse to do anything about.

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Filed Under: broadband, cable, cut the cord


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2021 @ 1:50pm

    I could subscribe to every service twice for what cable used to cost me. I miss a few channels, but not enough to spend that much money ever again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 28 Jan 2021 @ 2:33pm

    What about downsizing?

    I haven't "cut the cord", but I did take $100/month off my cable bill by changing my subscription to the most basic cable offering.

    Am I counted as a "cord cutter"? I suspect not, despite the fact that what I pay for cable is probably only 15-20% of what it was.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2021 @ 4:19pm

      Re: What about downsizing?

      I remember a few years back when I still had Comcast and used their cheapest broadband option, I actually saved five bucks a month off my bill by bundling the internet in with their cheapest cable option, even though I never used the cable and just stuck with the internet. I never thought about it until now, but I wonder if there are other people out there doing the same thing, and how much it affects their numbers. Probably worth it for them to lose a couple bucks a month just to say they have one more cable subscriber than they really do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 29 Jan 2021 @ 12:07am

      Re: What about downsizing?

      "Am I counted as a "cord cutter"?"

      Well, no, but people like you will count against their revenue all the same. The question is whether the response from your provider will be to just raise prices for people who have stuck with them, and whether you have any reasonable competing services in your area to switch to if you dislike that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    farooge (profile), 28 Jan 2021 @ 3:50pm

    imformal demographics

    I have a 12yo and a 16yo. Neither have any interest in broadcast TV. Seriously, none - it's not even on their radar. Same with their friends.

    Games and on-demand rule they day in our world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 28 Jan 2021 @ 3:56pm

    Cut Hulu Live two weeks ago

    I cut the coax cable cord 3 years ago, but I've had Hulu Live which is just like cable...until two weeks ago. Haven't missed it all. I've got Peacock for EPL, MLB TV free via Tmobile for baseball come April, the Hulu/Disnry+/Espn+ bundle, Netflix. Roku, and a Plex server. We are not hurting for flat screen based entertainment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2021 @ 7:26pm

    My entire family, 3 households share one AT&T TV account that we split the cost on. I rarely use it now due to all the commercials. It is just better to be able to use the account to get the streaming apps like HBOmax and other shows and watch stuff when I want instead of when it is broadcasted. My children don’t understand why anyone would want to watch tv like before.

    Now with all these streaming stuff, we are starting to hit our Comcast cap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 1 Feb 2021 @ 5:55am

      Re:

      My children don’t understand why anyone would want to watch tv like before.

      Well, back in the day, people in grade school would talk about the TV shows of the night before. There was a reasonable expectation that many of your friends had watched the same shows that you had, due to the fact that there were but a small number of networks, a small number of interesting shows. With traditional broadcast TV, tany particular show was available on the same night in every household in the school district.

      With an hundred streaming options on demand, there is sure to be less of that communal discussion. There is less fun in doing whatever the modern equivalent of the ``Dead Parrot'' sketch is if no one else in your group even saw it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 1 Feb 2021 @ 6:57am

        Re: Re:

        Well, people do still seem to find and gravitate toward the same things still, and there is still the general zeitgeist, it's just that often they're now finding them more naturally instead of just watching whatever a small number of TV stations happen to be pushing. It's also easier to catch up with the conversation if you missed something the first night, since what you want to watch is still there the next night.

        But, is TV still as important to kids nowadays, anyway? They seem to be more likely to be talking about a new thing on TikTok, or their last night experience in Fortnite or Minecraft than they are whatever was broadcast. The breadth of entertainment available goes way beyond TV shows, and maybe they're just not as relevant as they were when people didn't have the choice?

        "There is less fun in doing whatever the modern equivalent of the ``Dead Parrot'' sketch is if no one else in your group even saw it."

        Alternatively, you go in and tell everybody about this crazy hilarious thing you saw, and the next day everyone else seen it and they all catch up. I'm probably coming at this from a slightly different angle, as my tastes have always been somewhat out of the mainstream, but it was always better for me personally to have that experience rather than just watch something I had no natural interest in to be able to talk about it the next day.

        I remember seeing Red Dwarf on its first episode's broadcast, nobody I knew had seen it on that night, but by the end of the first series everyone was talking about it. I don't think anything was missed just because I chose to tune in to BBC2 on that night instead of watching Eastenders or whatever crap the mainstream was more interested in.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2021 @ 8:15am

    I have netflicks. There's more on youtube Today that I find interesting than I can watch if I spent the rest of my life trying. There's documentary sites, educational sites, podcasts - again more that interests me than I could possibly consume if I devoted every hour of every day to.

    Remind me why I would want a cable subscription?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2021 @ 12:13pm

    I want a new drug

    Cut the cord for real: leave your ISP/cable co. and go with the local phone company ISP.
    ...wait a minute..the new king = the old king because they're both raising prices.
    At one point, some of us wanted a la carte programming. Well, we're getting it (kinda) with all of these channels now providing their own streaming piles -- I mean "streaming products". I don't want that either because it's even more expensive to pay for each channel (their shows) on top of still paying for internet access to the same company I 'cut'.
    We still need to be able to choose locally from all different cable companies, just like I can choose locally from different gas station companies, grocery store chains, department store chains, fast food franchises, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Techreceiver65 (profile), 2 Feb 2021 @ 6:24am

    Wow really?

    That's actually surprising given the fact that it seems like so many companies are doubling down on their advertising when it comes to television. But then again at the same time it also makes sense too given not only the prevalence of streaming and how it's gotten so popular, but also the simple fact that not as many people watch TV because of they're ability to get their favorite content elsewhere. I'm super curious where this actually ends up. Reason being wasn't ATSC supposed to be released some point soon if I'm not mistaken? https://easyhometheater.net/smart-home-technology-of-the-future#18
    I feel like with so many people moving over to streaming, it's almost an investment in infrastructure that's in vain (just my opinion of course). Like I genuinely could see a scenario where in like 5 years, at least 50 percent of people or more don't even watch TV.
    I believe I read from here that from 2019 to 2020, TV watching dropped 15.3 percent?
    https://www.marketingcharts.com/featured-105414
    That's wild to me because that pretty much affirms that streaming is most likely the future if that trend continues. I guess we'll see though. Should be interesting nonetheless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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