Nearly half of television subscribers in North America are considering cutting the cord, according to headlines in the trade press. That follows a survey that actually suggests 6.8% of respondents were planning to cut their cable or satellite service or switch to an online service instead. It turns out that far fewer actually do so. Over three quarters of respondents still say they are satisfied with their pay-television service, although they are finding it harder to find something they want to watch. So are the rest really going to stop watching television?
The Digitalsmiths Video Trends Report is based on a quarterly survey of over 3,000 adults in the United States and Canada.
In the second quarter of 2015, 7.7% of respondents said that they had switched pay-television providers in the last three months. That is an increase of 1.7% year on year.
4.5% said that they were planning to cut their cable or satellite service in the next six months. Then again, 4.8% said the same thing the previous quarter but so far they have not done so.
The informitv Multiscreen Index shows that the top 10 pay-television services in the United States lost over 400,000 digital television subscribers between them in the second quarter of 2015. That represents less than 0.5% of their combined subscriber base.
According to the Digitalsmiths survey, over three quarters of respondents are still “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their service provider. The number that are unsatisfied is up from 17.% in 2013 to 23.4%. The top reason given is increasing fees.
However, the number that decreased or removed services remains only slightly higher at 18.6% than the 17.8% that that added services.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those that are unsatisfied with their provider are more likely to cut or change their service.
The most statistically significant predictors of satisfaction are apparently the size of the monthly bill and how easy it is to find programmes.
The number of respondents that say they feel it is easy to find something they want to watch on television has decreased from 67.5% in Q2 2013 to 58.1%.
Those that find it difficult to find something they want to watch are more likely to consider changing their service provider.
Digitalsmiths naturally concludes that personalisation is the key to improving the viewing experience.
Meanwhile, the number of respondents that subscribe to an online video service, like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, has risen from 46.7% to 57.7% over two years.
The Digitalsmiths survey found that convenience was the number one reason that people chose these services.
Interestingly, they were not asked whether they preferred to avoid interruptive advertising.
Awareness that their pay-television provider offered programming to view on smartphones or tablets has risen by 11.2% in two years but has still only reached 43.3%.
Only 24% of those surveyed had such an app from their service provider on their smartphone or tablet. Of those, more than half said they rarely or never use it.
27% said they had a television network app, but only 60% said they used one on a weekly basis.
Digitalsmiths does not provide a breakdown of customer satisfaction by service provider. The Tivo company provides services to customers of AT&T, Bright House Networks, Charter, DISH Network, DIRECTV, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.
So Digitalsmiths serves six of the top ten providers in the informitv Multiscreen Index. The notable omission is Comcast, the largest cable company in the country, with 22.31 million subscribers.
Turning to the recently released annual J D Power US residential Television Customer Satisfaction Study for 2015, Comcast XFINITY scored among the lowest in the satisfaction ratings.
The ratings are based on network performance and reliability, cost of service, billing, communication, customer service and programming.
Interestingly, overall satisfaction with television service providers has increased to 723 out of 1000, up by 12 points on the previous year.
Notably, the satellite and telco providers generally score higher than average for satisfaction, above the cable companies with which they compete. Verizon FiOS, DIRECTTV, DISH Network and AT&T U-verse all had the highest satisfaction in different regions.
This might suggest that the newer entrants are more successful in satisfying their subscribers than the entrenched cable companies.
In the second quarter of 2015 Verizon FiOS was the only service provider among the top ten in the United States to gain subscribers, adding 26,000.
The Digitalsmiths report provides a valuable insight into viewing choices in North America, not least because it asks the same questions every quarter.
It consistently reports that people find it difficult to find something they want to watch on television. The assumption is always that there is a technological solution to this, in improved discovery and recommendations.
Perhaps not always knowing what to watch is inherent in television.
For all those that report being dissatisfied with their service provider and threatening to switch or cut their service, the irony is that relatively few do.
Between them, the top ten services for the United States in the informitv Multiscreen Index still have 87.51 million homes, compared to 87.34 million two years previously.
The Video Trends Report is available for download from the Digitalsmiths web site. A summary of the customer satisfaction study is available from the J D Power web site. The Multiscreen Index report is available from informitv.