Cord Cutting Sets More Records, Yet Many Cable Giants Still Refuse To Compete On Price
from the adapt-or-perish dept
Despite the obvious realities that ratings are sharply down and consumers are cutting the cord, there’s a vibrant and loyal segment of cable and broadcast executives and analysts who still somehow believe cord cutting is a myth. Every few months, you’ll see a report about how cord cutting is either nonexistent or overstated. Often, they’ll try to claim that cord cutters are just lame weirdos they didn’t want anyway, or that this is just a temporary trend that stops once more Millennials procreate.
Newsflash: it’s not stopping.
The latest data from Kagan indicates traditional pay TV providers lost another 1.3 million subscribers last quarter as users continued to flock to streaming alternatives, embrace the use of over the air antennas, or embrace piracy (something analysts traditionally never mention, as if acknowledging this fact somehow condones it). A big part of this latest surge in losses were courtesy of Dish Network, which saw a record 367,000 departures as its satellite TV customers flocked to greener and cheaper pastures, including Dish’s cheaper Sling TV alternative.
Industry analyst Craig Moffett, who used to be among those who mocked cord cutters as irrelevant, has dramatically changed his tune over the last few years. He continues to point out that these numbers are actually worse than they appear, since new homeowners and movers aren’t signing up for traditional cable at their new addresses:
“It is the largest quarterly loss ever (the first time the industry lost over 1 million subscribers in a quarter),? writes Craig Moffett, senior research analyst, MoffettNathanson.
?With traditional pay TV penetration still hovering close to 80%, one would have expected growth of about 200,000 more subscribers per quarter on average than a year ago, based solely on the new household formations,? writes Moffett. “To the extent we are not seeing these new households in the subscriber data, we can conclude that cord-cutting has accelerated more than it appears, based on the reported subscribership data alone.”
Obviously an 80% penetration rate for traditional cable is nothing to sneeze at.
But while traditional cable TV is still the preferred viewing option du jour, it’s equally obvious that the industry needs to adapt sooner rather than later. Many of these customers are older viewers scared by new technology who won’t be around for ever. Many others are sports fans, who still struggle to find streaming alternatives to cable given many broadcasters’ painfully slow adaptation to this new paradigm, something exemplified by the aggressively terrible losses seen by ESPN in recent years. But leagues like the NFL are very slowly but surely figuring out that direct to consumer streaming is the future.
And while a few companies like Dish and AT&T have figured out that they have no choice in offering cheaper, more flexible viewing options (Sling TV and DirecTV Now respectively), much of the sector remains stuck in a dance of dysfunction that includes refusing to compete on price. Whether it’s Charter’s decision to mindlessly raise rates on the heels of its latest merger, or Comcast using bullshit fees to covertly jack up your monthly rate, there’s a cavalcade of industry executives who haven’t received one obvious message: the traditional cable cash cow is dying, and price competition and better, more flexible offerings are the only path forward.