Cable TV Growing Older? Younger Adults Are Dropping Subscriptions At a High Rate





man cutting cable cord

The clock has long been ticking on cable TV, and it seems to be speeding up among the younger end of the spectrum.

According to a new report from the Leichtman Research Group, 56% of adults aged 18 to 44 have a pay-TV service. A decade ago, that figure stood at 83%. Adults 45 and over also saw a decline, albeit a gentler one, falling to 70% from 88% in 2013.

The figures illustrate the shift away from traditional pay TV as other services, whether YouTube or TikTok or subscription streaming options like Disney+ or Netflix, start to take up more of the share of entertainment hours.

Among Americans who have never had cable, 63% are aged 18 and 34.

Other related findings include:

  • 48% of those that moved in the past year do not currently have a pay-TV service – a higher level than in any previous year
  • 42% of renters do not have a pay-TV service – compared to 33% of homeowners
  • 33% of non-subscribers last had a pay-TV service within the past three years, 37% last had a pay-TV service over three years ago, and 30% never had a pay-TV service 
  • The mean age of traditional pay-TV subscribers is 49.3 – compared to 42.5 among non-subscribers, and 40.8 with vMVPD-only

“The percent of U.S. TV households with a live pay-TV service waned over the past decade, with a more precipitous decline over the past five years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “The penetration of pay-TV remains lowest among younger adults and the categories that they tend to populate, including movers and renters.  Today, 56% of ages 18-44 have a pay-TV service, compared to 83% a decade ago.”

This comes as a growing number of small and midsize cable TV companies have decided to stop selling cable TV in 2023. One of the largest of these included WOW! which partnered with YouTube TV instead of selling its own service. The question now is how long can older subscribers keep cable TV going as its subscribers continue to age.

Correction: We have updated the story to reflect that of Americans who have never had cable TV 63% of them are between the ages of 18 and 34.

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