71% of US consumers plan to keep cord

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While cord cutting and shaving may be challenges for pay-TV providers, the vast majority of US consumers still say they are not ready to give up on these proven and deeply established sources of entertainment.

New Cord Evolution research from GfK MRI shows that almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of all US consumers say they have cable, satellite, or telco TV service and have no plans to drop it. This includes the majority of the crucial 18-to-34 age group (58 per cent), as well as 69 per cent of people ages 35 to 49, and 80 per cent of those 50 and over.

Reliability and comfort are top reasons that these viewers cite for sticking with their cords. Among adults ages 18 to 64, the #1 reason for keeping pay-TV is simply being “used to it,” followed by “convenient to have everything in one place” and “I need it to watch the shows I want to watch.”

Young adults (ages 18 to 34), however, are more likely to cite channel surfing and access to live content as reasons why they are sticking with their cords.

Large numbers of pay-TV subscribers are adding to their cord services rather than replacing them. Over half (55 per cent) of pay-TV loyalists are “stacking” other services – such as subscription streaming video – on top of cable or satellite access. Among 18-to-34 loyalists, the proportion of “stackers” rises to 76 per cent.

Cord trends since 2015

Although roughly three-quarters of consumers are still “loyal to the cord,” MRI has seen a 6 percentage point decline in this group since 2015, from 77 per cent of all US adults to 71 per cent now. And among those 18 to 34, this metric has fallen 9 points, from 67 per cent to 58 per cent, in the same timeframe.

MRI’s research also shows that 52 per cent of these pay-TV loyalists in the 50-plus age group have never streamed and only access TV through traditional pay-TV services.

“The fact is that pay-TV services still account for most of the TV watching that happens in the US,” said Amy Hunt, VP of TVideo Media Sales at MRI. “Many of their subscribers simply cannot imagine a new way of doing things. But as younger generations more comfortable with streaming technologies set up households, cable and satellite companies need to find ways to remain attractive and relevant.”

These findings come from MRI’s Cord Evolution research and are based on 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews in MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer, asking about cord intentions. Cord Evolution research tracks levels of “cord disruption” (who is cutting, who is increasing) among 10 unique viewing groups, revealing the impact of new digital offerings on traditional cord subscriptions and linear behaviour. This research measures not just what and how they are watching, but also the why’s behind their viewing and subscription choices.

MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer represents the gold standard in traditional planning and consumer insights. It is accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC), which conducts annual audits of MRI’s methodology, fieldwork, analytics, and data handling systems. On behalf of clients and the industry, the MRC assures that audience measurement services are valid, reliable, and effective.


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