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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

Consumers rethink their pay-TV options

December 16, 2015 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Stable subscriber counts for pay-TV services were once assurance for cable and satellite operators. Business is quite different these days. Consumers are now canceling or reducing their pay-TV subscription plans and opting for on-demand streaming. MoffettNathanson, a research and investment information firm, reports that US pay-TV services lost nearly a million subscribers across both Q2 and Q3 combined.

Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Videoquake 3.0: The Evolution of TV’s Revolution Report tracks intelligence on consumers’ changing relationship with content distribution offerings. PwC’s comprehensive research included two focus groups, 1,200 surveyed US Adults, 18+ and three months of social listening by examining social media mentions related to this topic.

The study reports that 79% of US consumers subscribe to some type of pay-TV bundle. Of these consumers, almost one-quarter (23%) reduced the size of their pay-TV package this year.  Cable and satellite operators are now offering customizable channel packages to try to stop subscribers from canceling or shifting to “over the top” (OTT) streaming services. After all, the average cable subscriber receives 194 channels and only watches 17; many ask why they should pay for more channels than they watch.

The migration to streaming is seamless given that 70% of pay-TV subscribers already have a subscription to a streaming service. The biggest players in streaming are Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO Go. The data also shows many consumers subscribe to more than one streaming service. For example, 65% of US consumers subscribe to Netflix and of these Netflix subscribers 52% also subscribe to cable and 55% also subscribe to at least one other OTT service. This is also the practice among Amazon Prime subscribers. Just over one-third (34%) of US consumers have an Amazon Prime subscription and among these subscribers 53% also subscribe to cable and 79% also subscriber to another OTT platform.

According to the PwC’s report, cost is the number one reason for canceling cable subscriptions, 57% of those who canceled their subscriptions reported they did so because “the monthly costs are just too high.” It’s not just the pay-TV subscription service that consumer pays for but also the set-top box rental. Ninety-nine percent of pay-TV subscribers pay for set-top box rental which averages to approximately $241 per year in a multi-television household. Streaming video, even multiple, has a much lower cost of entry.

Consumers are choosing to pay for the content they want and not being locked into paying for content they do not watch. As consumers’ relationship with content changes across services and screens, the market will need to continue to respond with relevant consumer options and business models.



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