Few Consumers are Canceling Cable TV for Internet Video

  • Altman Vilandrie & Company
  • Research Now
BOSTON, MA – The number of consumers “cutting the cord” from cable TV for Internet video remains low and live programming is still a huge viewer draw, according to a new annual survey of consumer viewing habits released today by Altman Vilandrie & Company, a strategy consulting group that focuses on the telecom, media, technology and investor sectors. However, cable’s initiatives to bring content to mobile devices, dubbed “TV Everywhere,” have low awareness, and cable risks losing the mobile viewing battle to Netflix and other online providers.

The survey also found that less than 5 percent of consumers watch online video regularly instead of subscribing to cable TV, a negligible increase over 2012. Most non-subscribers canceled primarily due to the affordability or value of cable, not because online video was a complete substitute. Those who have canceled spent less and subscribed to fewer services than average subscribers. The survey, conducted since 2009 with Research Now, a digital data collection provider, also revealed surprising resilience in the popularity of live viewing and that watching shows when they become available is especially important to younger viewers.

Mobile Device Viewing Exploding
Some dark clouds remain on the horizon for cable providers: 80 percent of consumers under 35 (and nearly half of older viewers) now watch TV shows and movies online weekly. Mobile device viewing is exploding, with more than a quarter of people under 45 watching TV shows and movies on a tablet weekly. The percentage of those watching TV and movies weekly on a smartphone has nearly tripled since 2011, from 5 percent to 14 percent in 2013. One in five 35 to 44 year olds now watch TV or movies on a smartphone every week.

“This is a good news/bad news story for cable operators,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Director Jonathan Hurd, who directed the survey. “Live sports, news, and popular series are sustaining cable, and ‘appointment viewing’ is popular among younger viewers due to social media. But if operators can’t figure out how to market TV Everywhere they may lose out on younger viewers who want to watch TV shows on tablets, laptops, and smartphones.”

While the survey showed that most viewers want to keep a relationship with cable, more are paring back on the amount they pay in cable bills every month. So called “cord-shaving” has doubled since 2010, with 26 percent now reporting they have cut back on cable services like video-on-demand. In addition, more than 40 percent of subscribers under 35 admit they have “seriously considered” dropping cable TV service.
Other major findings of the survey include:

  • Among those keeping their cable TV subscriptions, the desire to watch live news (75 percent), new TV shows (66 percent) and live sports (59 percent) were the main reasons given.

  • Even with the boom in online and mobile viewing, the level of TV watching during normal broadcast time is roughly the same as in 2010, with 80 percent of consumers saying they do so weekly vs. 81 percent in 2010.

  • “Binge watching” of programs through Netflix or other sources has also gained popularity, with 54 percent of consumers now indulging in marathon viewing sessions of a specific program.

  • Only half of those under 35 want a traditional TV remote, preferring a mobile device or laptop.

  • Even though all of the major multichannel providers offer some form of TV Everywhere, only 32 percent said their cable TV subscription included access to this service. That number dropped to 24 percent for viewers over 55.

  • Nearly half of non-subscribers under age 35 said they expect to subscribe to cable within five years.

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