Pay-TV Penetration Continues Its Slow Descent From 2010’s Peak

November 15, 2018

Pay-TV penetration in the US continues its decline, though it’s by no means a drastic drop. The latest annual survey figures from Leichtman Research Group (LRG) indicate that 78% of TV households in the US subscribe to some type of pay-TV service. That’s down only a point from last year, but still represents a 10-point decline from the peak of 88% in 2010.

The declines have been most acute among younger Americans – who watch less traditional TV than their older counterparts. This year 70% of adults ages 18-44 in TV households report subscribing to a pay-TV service, a substantial 13%-point drop from 83% just 5 years ago.

The percentage of adults ages 45 and older in TV homes who subscribe to a pay-TV service has also decreased over that time frame, but by a smaller 5% points, from 88% to 83%.

Meanwhile, the 22% of adults who said they don’t subscribe to a pay-TV service broke out as follows: 7% last subscribed in the past 3 years; 7% last subscribed more than 3 years ago; and 8% have never subscribed.

One of the interesting findings from the survey relates to recent movers. Among those who moved residence in the past year, fully one-third (32%) said they don’t currently subscribe to a pay-TV service. Movers are generally ripe for provider switching, but the proportion foregoing pay-TV overall has grown quite dramatically, from 21% in 2015 and 12% in 2010. It may be that as they cancel their existing services for their move, these adults simply aren’t beginning new contracts in their new residences.

The report also points out two other correlations with pay-TV service penetration. The first relates to household income, as 27% of respondents with incomes lower than $50,000 forego pay-TV, compared to 20% with incomes higher than that level. This likely relates to ongoing concerns about the cost of pay-TV, which new survey research [pdf] from The Hollywood Report and Morning Consult shows still abound. Indeed, 90% of respondents to that survey consider cost to be somewhat or very important when it comes to deciding which traditional TV or streaming services to subscribe to, and respondents are as likely to be dissatisfied as satisfied with the cost of their current cable or satellite service.

Finally, the other link in the LRG research regards the number of TVs in the home. Among those with just one TV in the home, 44% are pay-TV non-subscribers, double the rate of those using 2 TVs (23%) and more than triple the rate of those using 3 or more TVs (12%).

About the Data: The results are based on a weighted telephone survey conducted in September-October 2018 among 1,152 adults ages 18 and older.

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