Cable TV’s Free Fall Continues as Cord Cutters Are Expected to Push Subscriptions to a New Low





man cutting cord with scissors

The percentage of households subscribing to traditional pay TV providers like Comcast, Charter, or DIRECTV is expected to hit a new low of just under a third of U.S. households by 2028, as the number of cord cutters and “cord nevers” surges, according to research firm GlobalData.

That’s a significant decline from this year, with the percentage of U.S. households with pay TV expected to be 42%, and a far cry from 2010, when that figure surpassed 85%, the firm said in its latest U.S. pay TV report. It also called for the number of subscriptions to fall below 50 million by 2025.

The figures underscore the shifting viewing dynamics, with early cord cutters now joining with younger viewers who are either cutting cable themselves, or never subscribing to it in the first place. Instead, consumers are instead flocking to free, ad-supported platforms like The Roku Channel, Tubi, and Pluto TV, live streaming services like YouTube TV or Sling TV, and subscription services like Netflix or Disney+.

“Younger generations tend to adopt new technologies and services like video streaming, but an additional element of the cord-nevers is the emergence of the ‘generation rent’ phenomenon,” said Jesús Romo, an analyst at GlobalData. “Younger consumers who are priced out of the housing market and rent for longer periods may prefer more flexible entertainment options that do not require a physical installation, are generally unbundled, and allow them to cancel and resubscribe.”

2024, meanwhile, is shaping up to be an interesting time in the streaming world, with rising subscription rates prompting savvy audiences to considering spending more time on free, ad-supported services instead. Even as those different services tussle for the attention of consumer, pay-TV will continue to decline.

Global Data said that the cable industry will end up controlling more of the shrinking U.S. pay TV market over time, even if the overall revenue will decline. The cable players are leaning on high-speed internet services and the possibility of bundling streaming services for growth, although it’s unclear if that bet will pay off.

The firm calls for pay-TV revenue in total to declined to less than $63.6 billion in 2028 from the current annual tally of $80.8 billion.

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