Most pay-TV subs take streaming services too – new survey

In its latest 'State of Cable' survey of 1,000 readers, found that 70% of them still subscribe to cable or satellite TV and that nearly all of them also subscribe to at least one streaming video service.

Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

December 21, 2021

3 Min Read
Most pay-TV subs take streaming services too – new survey

Despite the rise of streaming video, most US pay-TV households are still not cutting the cord even when they subscribe to one or more streaming video services, according to a new study.

In its latest "State of Cable" survey of 1,000 readers, found that slightly over 70% of them still have traditional pay-TV packages, while the remaining 30% have cut the cord in favor of streaming services. More notably, though, 91% of those who still have a legacy pay-TV service also subscribe to at least one streaming service, indicating that most pay-TV customers now subscribe to both types of premium services.

"We were surprised to learn that a majority of respondents didn’t cut out cable in favor of cheaper, simpler streaming TV services in this time of great uncertainty," the study's authors wrote. "Streaming TV services are increasingly popular, but cable and satellite TV aren’t dying off as fast as we might've thought—and many of our respondents get both cable and streaming TV services instead of switching."

Further, the study found that 58% of legacy pay-TV customers subscribe to two or three different streaming services. The authors posit that this means that subscribers are supplementing their live TV channels with on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Not surprisingly, the high cost of legacy pay-TV bundles was the dominant reason why viewers cut the cord. In the survey, nearly three-quarters (74%) of cord cutters cited price as the number one reason for kissing traditional pay-TV goodbye. Plus, slightly over 7% cited the "unsatisfactory bundle savings" offered by cable and satellite TV providers.

"That makes sense, since so many of us tightened our belts for the lockdown," the study's authors wrote. "Cable and satellite TV are so much more expensive than streaming TV services, and entertainment budgets are typically the first cuts."

But high pay-TV prices played a role even before the pandemic-induced lockdowns. In the survey, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the cord cutters made the move more than a year ago, suggesting that "COVID-19 wasn't the catalyst for most of our readers to get rid of cable," the authors concluded.

[Ed. note: makes money from affiliate relationships with TV providers and other links on its site, including, presumably, streaming services. It's worth noting that the site does disclose that it is a lead funnel for service providers and other companies, and that behavior can tilt where it places stories and how often it covers some services.]

Streaming savings

Nearly 80% of the survey participants claimed that they saved more than $30 a month by cutting the pay-TV cord. The authors note that this makes sense because "bundle discounts aren't that great anymore" for subscribers. "The average that we see at is $5–$10 a month—and some bundles have no baked-in savings whatsoever," they wrote.

Of the leading US pay-TV providers, Charter Communications' Spectrum service saw the greatest cord-cutting losses in the survey, accounting for almost 19% of the lost subscribers. DirecTV followed closely behind, accounting for over 17% of the lost subs. And Comcast's Xfinity service suffered the third worst loss, accounting for 15% of the total.

In one other notable finding, the study revealed that mobile TV apps are proving more and more popular. Some four-fifths of survey respondents (80%) said they now use their provider's mobile app at least some of the time.

"These results are interesting because they seem to imply that TV customers no longer rely on cable providers' TV boxes and DVRs," the study's authors write. "It's easy to see why, with smart TVs running these apps on their own and DVR service moving from hard disks to the fluffy cloud."

But stationary devices like smart TVs, set-top boxes and DVRs do still account for the largest share of actual viewing. Nearly three-fifths of respondents (58%) said they rely on such devices for TV viewing, while the rest rely on such mobile devices as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like