Cord Cutting Increasing Gradually, Not An Epidemic…Yet


An AP report on New Cord Evolution research from GfK MRI says 71% of all U.S. consumers say they have cable, satellite, or telco TV service and no plans to drop it. Crucially, this includes the 18-34 age group (58%). Those 35 to 49 stand at 69%, while 80% of those 50 and over say they are staying put with what they have. The top reasons for this continuity? Reliability and comfort. Familiarity (“just used to it”) was the top reason for those 18-64 keeping pay TV. This was followed by “convenient to have everything in one place” and “I need it to watch the shows I want to watch.”

In other findings, young adults (ages 18 to 34), are more likely to cite channel surfing and access to live content as reasons why they are sticking with their cords. Large numbers of pay-TV subscribers are adding to their cord services rather than replacing them. Over half (55 per cent) of pay-TV loyalists are “stacking” other services – such as subscription streaming video – on top of cable or satellite access. Among 18-to-34 loyalists, the proportion of “stackers” rises to 76%.

The research lists the following cord trends since 2015:

Although roughly three-quarters of consumers are still “loyal to the cord,” MRI has seen a 6 percentage point decline in this group since 2015, from 77% of all U.S. adults to 71% now. And among those 18 to 34, this metric has fallen 9 points, from 67% to 58%, in the same timeframe.

MRI’s research also shows that 52% of these pay-TV loyalists in the 50-plus age group have never streamed and only access TV through traditional pay-TV services.

“The fact is that pay-TV services still account for most of the TV watching that happens in the US,” said Amy Hunt, VP of TVideo Media Sales at 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.”

These findings come from MRI’s Cord Evolution research and are based on 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews in MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer, asking about cord intentions. Cord Evolution research tracks levels of “cord disruption” (who is cutting, who is increasing) among 10 unique viewing groups, revealing the impact of new digital offerings on traditional cord subscriptions and linear behavior. This research measures not just what and how they are watching, but also the why’s behind their viewing and subscription choices.

MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer represents the gold standard in traditional planning and consumer insights. It is accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC), which conducts annual audits of MRI’s methodology, fieldwork, analytics, and data handling systems. On behalf of clients and the industry, the MRC assures that audience measurement services are valid, reliable, and effective.