86% US households pay-TV subscribers

New consumer research from Leichtman Research Group (LRG) finds that 86 per cent of US households subscribe to some form of multi-channel video service. While major multi-channel video providers reported a cumulative increase of less than 1 per cent of subscribers over the past three years, penetration has slightly declined over that time as a result of a larger increase in the number of rental housing units. Multi-channel video penetration essentially peaked at 88 per cent in 2010 following the digital transition, having increased from 82 per cent in 2005.

Among TV households that do not currently subscribe to a multi-channel video service, 40 per cent subscribe to Netflix, 11 per cent to Amazon Prime, and 7 per cent to Hulu Plus – in total, 42 per cent of non-subscribers get at least one of these three over-the-top (OTT) services, and 58 per cent of non-subscribers do not get any. Overall, this results in 8 per cent of all TV households watching over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV only (down from 10 per cent in 2010), and 6 per cent watching a combination of OTA and OTT programming. This group includes about 1 per cent of all household that do not subscribe to a multi-channel video service primarily because they can watch all that they want via the Internet or Netflix.

These findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,319 households from throughout the United States, and are part of a new LRG study, Cable, DBS & Telcos: Competing for Customers 2013. This is LRG’s eleventh annual study of the topic.

Other related findings include:

  • Nationwide, 20 per cent of TV households with annual incomes <$50,000 are non-subscribers, compared to 9 per cent with incomes >$50,000 — a division that has been fairly consistent for years
  • Mean reported monthly spending on multi-channel video service is $83.25 – an increase of 5.9 per cent from last year
  • Multi-channel video subscribers with household incomes >$50,000 spend 18 per cent more per month than those with incomes <$50,000
  • 10 per cent of non-subscribers had subscribed to a multi-channel video service in the past year, and 7 per cent plan to subscribe to a service in the next six months
  • Overall, about 1.4 per cent of all TV households paid to subscribe to a service in the past year, but currently do not – a similar rate to the past five years
  • 5 per cent of current multi-channel video subscribers did not subscribe at some time in the past two years and just watched programmes from the Internet instead

“The number of households subscribing to a multi-channel video service is slightly higher than it was three years ago, yet the penetration of households subscribing to a service is now below its peak,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. “While some consumers continue to go in and out of the category, economic factors appear to be as a strong force in shaping this market as the emergence of over-the-top alternatives alone.”

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