Cable TV Subscribers Have Fallen to 1980s Levels





man cutting cable cord

Linear cable television audience numbers are falling fast as more people cut the cord. Estimates show that by 2025, 72 percent of Americans will have severed ties with cable TV, either to rid themselves of live television entirely or to switch to streaming platforms.

Back in the 1970s, only eight percent of U.S. homes had basic cable and the most popular networks were ABC, CBS, and NBC, which attracted over 90 percent of audiences. 

That number climbed to 23 percent by 1980 and doubled within a few short years. By the end of the 80s, the number of cable users increased to 60 percent and held strong through the 90s, half of which had some type of premium channels included in their contracts. Different channel options branched out into a variety of niches, such as ESPN for sports, CNN for news, HBO and Showtime for film enthusiasts, Lifetime for women-centric programming, MTV for music lovers, and Nickelodeon for the kiddos, to name a few.

Now, reports from Coach Potato show that approximately 53 percent of all U.S. households don’t utilize cable, satellite, or a telco TV access provider. In 2022, 7.37 million subscribers bounced from cable, an 11 percent decrease. This brings cable television subscriber numbers down to before the heyday of 80’s cable programming.

The Coach Potato report estimates that an additional 14 percent of cable subscribers will become cord cutters this year. By 2025, the report estimates a 16 percent loss. If Coach Potato is correct, and all signs point to yes, by 2025 70 percent of all TV subscribers in the U.S. will cut the cord. Numbers this low haven’t been seen by cable providers since the early 1980s and could go down to the low numbers reported back in the 1970s. 

Cable providers had their time to shine but it appears streaming platforms are taking it from here. What do you think? Will you be one of the cord cutters or have you already made the switch? And, if not, why?

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