It seems that some people are always planning to cancel their television service. In a quarterly survey in America, one in twenty people with pay television said they were going to cut their service within six months. Yet three quarters of customers said they were satisfied with their service. Subscriber numbers have held up surprisingly well in an intensely competitive market.
In its quarterly survey, TiVo subsidiary Digitalsmiths asked over 3,000 people in the United States if they planned to change their cable or satellite service in the next six months. 5.6% of respondents said they planned to cut it altogether, up from 4.1% in 2014 and 2.6% in 2013. Another 6.6% planned to change to another cable or satellite provider, while 2.4% planned to switch to an online app or rental service, and 30.1% were undecided.
Yet we have not seen a comparable reduction in pay-television subscribers in the United States.
The informitv Multiscreen Index shows that the top 10 listed pay-television services in the United States collectively lost just 0.78% of their subscriber base in 2015.
An operator like DIRECTV with nearly 20 million subscribers in the United States has a monthly customer churn of around 1.5%. That means it has to acquire nearly 300,000 subscribers a month just to maintain its numbers. Across the top 10 services that would extend to around 1.3 million customers churning a month.
Clearly, with such numbers, there will be those that churn out of the pay-television world. So far, the number leaving has been almost matched by the number entering. So in 2015 the net loss among the top 10 services was 684,000 subscribers.
The Digitalsmiths survey points to a level of dissatisfaction with pay television. However, only 22.6% of respondents reported being unsatisfied with the level of value received from their television service provider. That is actually slightly less than in previous years. The top reason for dissatisfaction remains increasing service fees. 55.6% reported being satisfied and 21.8% said they were very satisfied.
Extrapolated across the top 10 services, this suggests that 67 million households in the United States are either satisfied or very satisfied with the value of their pay-television service. That still leaves nearly 20 million who are unsatisfied.
The assumption is that service providers should seek to address this lack of satisfaction.
Yet perhaps some of those customers will never be completely satisfied. Perhaps there is something inherently unsatisfactory about the television experience that will not be solved by adding features and functions, or improving customer service.
If a service provider were able to delight all its customers you might imagine that it would become a clear market leader. So far, no such winner has emerged.
The reality may be that for all people claim to be dissatisfied by television, profess that they no longer watch anyway, or are planning to cancel their service, they are still drawn like moths to the screen.
That may be why the pay-television proposition has remained remarkably resilient in the face of increasing competition. In fact, the Multiscreen index shows that the top ten services in the United States ended 2015 with more subscribers than they had three years previously.
The Digialsmiths survey is based on a sample of over 3,000 adults in the United States and Canada and has been conducted quarterly since 2012. The Video Trends Report Q4 2015 is available from the Digitalsmiths web site.