Everyone Is Lying About the True Growth of Cord Cutting


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Cutting the cable connection to coax connector illustrating retired people cancelling cable TV service

Cutting the cable connection to coax connector illustrating retired people cancelling cable TV serviceI’m sure by now most cord cutters have heard that pay-TV lost over 800,000 subscribers just the second quarter of 2016; however, that is only half of the story.

To really get an idea of the true losses pay-TV companies are experiencing you must look at a number of factors including new housing stats and work force growth. Traditionally pay-TV captures about 90% of new housing stats, so let’s start with new housing stats.

New Households

In 2010 cable subscribers peaked at about 105 million households in the United States. Since 2010 there has been a fairly steady decline in pay-TV subscribers. It is now expected that pay-TV in the United States will drop to below 100 million for the first time in a long time in 2016.

During the same time that pay-TV services lost 5 million households over 4.5 million new households have been created according to the United States Census Bureau.

So about 5 million fewer subscribers and 4.5 million new homes created without pay-TV, and still that is not even the full truth…

What about population growth?

Since 2010 over 8,700,000 US citizens joined the work force. Although not all of them will have their own house this does mean that over 8 million new subscribers have come of age to have their own/rent a house or apartment and get their own pay-TV subscription. (That is just the legal citizens. There is no way to track non-citizens who live within the United States.)

Cord Cutters Counted as Pay-TV Subscribers

Many of the online live streaming services report their subscriber counts as part of the pay-TV numbers, so a portion of the 100 million pay-TV subscribers includes subscribers to streaming services such as Sling TV and SFN TV Now.

We do not have a way to break out these numbers, but they are not minor as almost every major pay-TV service has some type of streaming service.

So what are the real numbers?

So what are the true numbers of cord cutters and cord nevers? Sling TV said back at CES they believe it could be as high as 20 million. The Wall Street Journal last fall also suggested that it is roughly 20 million households have never signed up for pay-TV.

Honestly there is no real way to know for sure how many cord cutters or cord nevers there are but my money is on something close to 20 million-plus Americans. However, all we can do is estimate the numbers but next time you see how pay-TV added some small number of subscribers just remember on average over the last 5 years 900,400 households were created each year and 1,740,000 US citizens joined the work force each year.

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