Q. I keep reading about people cutting the cord and dropping their cable or satellite TV service. But how many people are actually doing this? Is cord-cutting really for real? Or is it just something the media likes to hype up to get attention? — Marty, Philadelphia.
Marty, the answer to both of your questions is yes.
Cord-cutting is one of the most hyped trends in technology in the last 20 years — and that really says something when you consider we’ve seen such flops as 3D TV, Virtual Reality and Interactive TV during that time. All flops, I might add, that were proclaimed as the next big thing by both the media, and most industry analysts.
Why do I say cord-cutting has been hyped? After all, hasn’t cable, telco and satellite TV services lost millions of subscribers in the last five years or so?
Well, yes they have. But they still have more than 90 million, meaning they’ve lost around 6-8 percent of their subscriber base during that time.
That’s not a pleasing number for anyone sitting in charge of a traditional pay TV company. But it’s hardly a sign that a majority of Americans are fleeing pay TV, which you would think they are based on most media reports.
But cord-cutting is real. A relatively small percentage of Americans have said enough is enough. They are (justifiably) angry that pay TV bills are too high, and they have cut the cord.
And more will do so in the coming years. But there’s no indication that it’s becoming a mass trend.
In fact, in the last few years, traditional pay TV services, AT&T (owner of DIRECTV) and Dish have accumulated nearly five million subscribers through their live streaming services, DIRECTV Now and Sling respectively. Many people that journalists and analysts say are ‘cutting the cord’ are actually just getting a different (and less expensive) type of pay TV service.
And you can expect more traditional pay TV services will chase the live streaming audience with new services as well.
Bottom line: Pay TV companies have a challenge on their hands to keep subscribers on board, but it can be done — and is being done — with more creative packaging and technology.
Traditional (and expensive) pay TV services, such as cable TV and satellite TV, will continue to lose subscribers. But their owners will offset many of those losses with live streaming offerings.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann