A quarterly survey in the United States and Canada found that half of respondents are satisfied with their current pay-television service and over a quarter are very satisfied. The rest mostly think it is too expensive and only want to pay for the channels they actually watch. 7.6% of respondents plan to cut their cable or satellite service altogether in the next six months. It is the highest percentage yet seen, although such sentiment has yet to translate into equivalent subscriber losses.
The quarterly report from TiVo, previously published by Digitalsmiths, considers video trends based on a survey of over 3,000 adults in the United States and Canada.
The survey found that 83% of respondents have a pay-television service provider, which is broadly consistent with other research. Nielsen reports that 84% of households in the United States have cable, satellite or telco television. Out of a universe of 118.4 million television homes, that is just under 100 million homes, or 99,456,000 to be more precise, although not necessarily more accurate.
Of the 17% without a pay-television provider, the TiVo survey found 19.8%, that is almost a fifth, cut their television service in the previous 12 months. That works out at about 3.75 million homes in the United States.
The TiVo survey also found that of those with a pay-television provider, 10% switched providers in the last three months, the highest percentage since they started asking this question in mid-2013.
Of those with pay-television, 7.6% said they plan to cut their cable or satellite service altogether within six months, which is the highest proportion seen since this question was first asked at the end of 2012, up by 5% over three years. That would be equivalent 7.56 million homes in the United States, which would be significant if it were actually to happen.
A further 6.8% said they plan to change to another pay-television provider, 3.2% plan to switch to an online service or app, and 29.6% were undecided, leaving only 52%, or just over a half, who said they planned to stay with their current provider.
Those that were planning to cut, change or switch their pay-television provider were asked to select any from a list of reasons that would cause them to consider leaving keeping their cable or satellite television service. 63.7% said if they could choose and pay only for the channels they typically watch, while 45.1% said if they could combine all their services into one integrated interface, and 17.3% said if there were recommendations to make it easier to find something to watch.
Interestingly, 24.1% of those surveyed said they were very satisfied with their cable or satellite service provider and 54.2% were satisfied, leaving 21.7% unsatisfied. So that is equivalent to 78.3% or 77.87 million homes, or nearly 8 out of 10 pay television subscribers that report they are satisfied with their service.
Of the fifth that were unsatisfied, 80% said that it was too expensive or blamed increasing fees.
63% of all respondents said they used a subscription video on demand service, including 52.8% with Netflix, 26.3% with Amazon, and 11.8% with Hulu. Of those paying for television, 91.1% said they used one or more of such services and 64.7% said they used them on a daily basis.
The TiVo survey found that of 9.4% of pay-television subscribers who own a streaming device say they plan to cut their cable or satellite service in the next six months, compared to 5.3% who do not own a streaming device.
The survey found that 19% of pay television subscribers used a streaming device to replace a set-top box in the fourth quarter of 2016, a figure that seems extraordinarily high. Of those, it found that 20.4% plan to cut their cable or satellite service in the next six months.
However, only 4.4% of pay-television subscribers with a streaming device were planning to switch to an online app or subscription service exclusively, instead of a cable or satellite service.
As the Tivo report concedes, “People often say they might cut cable service, but in reality this proves to be a difficult decision that can drag out for months or even years.”
Quite so. Surveying reported behaviour or sentiment is one thing, but it does not necessarily translate into customer action.
The informitv Multiscreen Index shows that the top 10 pay-television service providers in the United States lost around 1% of their subscriber base in 2016, or just under a million customers, although they more than made up for it through corporate consolidation. These top 10 services account for 89.2%, or nearly 9 out of 10 homes subscribing to television in the United States.
The TiVo Video Trends report contains a wealth of data, all the more valuable because it has consistently used comparable methodology and questions over successive quarters.
So far, the perceived customer dissatisfaction with pay television has yet to translate into a spectacular decline in subscribers, although competition and churn is clearly challenging service providers.