More than seven out of 10 consumers in the United States say they have a cable, satellite or telco television service and have no plans to drop it. That figure comes from GfK MRI research, based on a nationally representative survey, which shows the number is still almost six out of 10 in the 18-34 age group. However, the metric for that age group has dropped from 67% to 58% since 2015.
The findings come from 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews in the MRI Survey of the American Consumer. This includes questions about so-called ‘cord-cutting’ intentions among 10 different viewing groups, reporting on the reasons behind their viewing and subscription choices and the impact of new digital offerings on traditional television services.
According to the survey, 71% of the population in the United States has a cable, satellite or telco television service and is keeping it. That number is down from 77% in 2015. Among those aged 18-34 the number if 58%, down from 67% in 2015. For those aged 35-49 it is 69%, rising to 78% of those aged 50-64 and 83% of those aged over 65.
Reliability and comfort are top reasons that these viewers cite for sticking with their pay-television service. Among adults aged 18 to 64, the number one reason for keeping their pay-television service is simply being “used to it,” followed by “convenient to have everything in one place” and “I need it to watch the shows I want to watch.” They also said they “would miss it” and that it was a “hassle to cancel”.
Young adults, aged 18 to 34, are more likely to cite channel surfing and access to live programming as reasons to keep their television subscriptions.
Among those aged 18-64, the top five benefits of keep their television service were that they could “turn on and go”, “bundle services”, “access live TV’, with “all channels or networks in one place”, and the availability of a digital video recorder.
Interestingly, all of these benefits are potentially available from online multichannel services, but it demonstrates the perception that they are features of traditional pay television. After all, it is a multibillion-dollar market that has spent decades promoting the perception that pay television is the norm in the United States.
Large numbers of pay-television subscribers are adding to their services rather than replacing them, with 48% adding streaming video subscription services. Among those aged 18-to-34 with pay-television services, the proportion adding streaming video subscription services rises to 65%, while for those aged 35-49 it is 56%. Over half of those aged over 50 have never streamed and only access television through traditional pay-television services.
“The fact is that pay-TV services still account for most of the TV watching that happens in the US,” said Amy Hunt of MRI. “Many of their subscribers simply cannot imagine a new way of doing things. But as younger generations more comfortable with streaming technologies set up households, cable and satellite companies need to find ways to remain attractive and relevant.”
The informitv Multiscreen Index shows that three years ago the top 10 television services in the United States had a total of 87.72 million subscribers. In mid-2018 the composition of the top 10 had changed, with the addition of online multichannel services of Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW, and had a total of 83.56 million subscribers.
The number may be falling, but it is declining relatively slowly, supported by the rise of online services that are taking their place alongside cable, satellite and telco television.