Advanced Television

Research: 30m+ Americans ‘Cord Nevers’

April 10, 2019

While media attention often focuses on ‘Cord Cutters’ – adults who give up their cable or satellite TV subscriptions – new MRI-Simmons research shows that a growing number of Americans have never paid for a traditional TV connection.

The latest Cord Evolution insights reveal that roughly 31 million US consumers – 12 per cent of the adult population – are Cord Nevers (CNs); that represents an increase over the 2017 level of 9 per cent. With a median age of 33, the typical Cord Never’s average household income has risen by 27 per cent over the last two years, from $41,500 to $52,800.

Among Cord Nevers, 27 per cent – about 8 million adults – say they plan to sign up for a pay-TV service in the next six months. Some 70 per cent of these cord seekers say they will subscribe to a traditional (cable, fibre optic, or satellite) service, while 30 per cent – 41 per cent of 18 to 34 years olds – expect to acquire a streaming TV package, such as Hulu with Live TV, DirectTV Now, or Sling TV.

Why are millions of Cord Nevers looking to connect to pay-TV service? The reasons vary dramatically by age. The option to channel surf is a big motivator for those in the 35-to-49 and 50+ groups, while the youngest adults (18 to 34) are seeking access and the ability to watch and find shows easily.

“Young people used to say that, as soon as they got their first well-paying job, they would sign up for the full suite of traditional TV services,” said Karen Ramspacher, SVP Innovations & Insights at MRI-Simmons. “Today, there are many more options for connecting to TVideo content – so competition for these subscription dollars is fierce. As they grow in numbers and wealth, today’s Cord Nevers definitely represent an opportunity for content providers – but understanding the Nevers’ underlying motivations is essential to targeting them effectively.”

Why Cord Nevers are likely to subscribe to a pay-TV service in the next 6 months (by age group)

18+ 18 to 34 35 to 49 50+
I want to be able to channel surf 27 per cent* 18 per cent


46 per cent


31 per cent


I can get a good deal on a TV package 23 per cent 30 per cent


10 per cent


15 per cent


It is easier to watch/find shows 21 per cent 29 per cent


7 per cent


11 per cent


It is the only way to watch the TV networks I want to watch 18 per cent 16 per cent


23 per cent


22 per cent


It has better access to shows I want to watch 18 per cent 23 per cent


11 per cent


9 per cent


It is worth the expense 17 per cent 16 per cent


26 per cent


4 per cent


I want to watch live news 17 per cent 14 per cent


30 per cent


6 per cent


I want to watch live programming when it airs 16 per cent 14 per cent


21 per cent


14 per cent


I want to have a DVR service 14 per cent 9 per cent


26 per cent


12 per cent


* To be read: Among Cord Nevers (ages 18+) who plan to subscribe to a traditional pay-TV service in the next 6 months, 27 per cent cite the ability to channel surf as a reason for subscribing

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