Cord Cutting Denial Is Alive And Well

from the head-buried-firmly-in-the-sand dept

You might recall that former Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett made a bit of a career by mocking cord cutters as poor, irrelevant basement dwellers, when he wasn't denying their existence entirely. Now at his own firm, Moffett has taken a complete 180 in recent years, unable to deny that cord cutting is a very real phenomenon that's only growing as the pay TV industry refuses to offer more flexible pricing options. And, contrary to Moffett's original analysis, most data shows that cord cutters tend to be young, gainfully employed, and well educated.

No worries though -- someone at Sanford Bernstein appears to have picked up the cord cutting denial mantle. Bernstein research analyst Todd Juenger this week has been making headlines for a research note that not only claims all of the new cord cutting options arriving in 2015 will fail (whether it's Sony's Playstation Vue, SlingTV or looming services from Apple and Verizon), but that cord cutting quite simply isn't happening. To prove it, he cites a non-specific "body of evidence" that he claims proves few people really want these services:
"A strong body of evidence is emerging that suggests to us that none of these services are likely to gain much traction," he said. "Simply put, for existing pay-TV subscribers, the content is too limited (relative to the cost savings); and for cord-nevers, the price is too high (relative to the appeal of the content)."
There's a bit of an ongoing media narrative afoot that new streaming options just aren't any good because users have to subscribe to every one of them just to get the same volume of content they get from traditional cable. But these narratives usually ignore the fact that users want something notably different from traditional cable. They also ignore piracy entirely in their analysis for whatever reason, which seems absurd when you're trying to take a bird's eye view of where the TV market sits.

Still, Juenger proceeds to insist that meaningful cord cutting "isn't likely to happen," and so the cable TV industry should do its very best to protect the "status quo":
"Cord-cutting, in large numbers, isn't likely to happen," Juenger said. "It's one of those ideas that sounds great in the abstract but crumbles when faced with the reality. OTT services seem poised to garner few subscribers, which is more good news than bad. We believe it's better for the pay-TV ecosystem to remain in the status quo than to add millions of OTT subscribers at the cost of blowing the whole system apart."
One, cord cutting is already happening in meaningful volume. Craig Moffett, the guy that used to deny cord cutting like Juenger, recently noted that he believes the pay TV sector lost 1.4 million total subscribers last year, largely thanks to cord cutters or "cord nevers." Two, most of the news outlets reporting on Juenger's comments didn't mention the fact that the "focus group" his statements were based on consisted of a whopping 18 people, nowhere near enough to actually make the kind of pronouncements he's making (he cautions people from making too much of the findings for this reason -- right before he himself apparently makes too much of the findings).

It's not clear why Bernstein analysts always seem intent on being at the forefront of cord cutting denial -- you'd hate to think they're trying to somehow influence stock holdings or performance by intentionally giving bad advice. But cord cutting is very much real, it's very much growing, and there's finally a flood of over-the-top streaming options arriving later this year now that broadcasters have started easing up on licensing restrictions. Advising the industry to hold tight to the "status quo" in the face of Internet video in 2015 is akin to telling residents in the path of a tsunami to stop worrying and have a cocktail.
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Filed Under: cable, cord cutting, craig moffett, denial, todd juenger, tv
Companies: sanford bernstein

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 11:19am

    Atypical Consumer Here...

    Where I grew up, cable TV wasn't an option; all we got was OTA channels. As such, I got used to picking and choosing what I wanted to watch on my four channels available -- I generally found there was something to keep me occupied most evenings.

    Eventually I moved somewhere that had cable, and found that the actual programming available wasn't any better than what I could get OTA, unless I wanted to subscribe to the most expensive options. Instead, I just dropped cable and contintued to get my TV OTA.

    When DVDs came along, I started to augment my viewing with box sets of TV shows I'd missed/enjoyed, and then realized that the local library was also doing this -- and had started allowing you to request discs online (you'd be notified for pickup when they were available) so I started doing this. Shortly afterward, NetFlix came along, doing the same thing. I didn't bother with them, as the local library had pretty much the same selection and faster turnaround. NetFlix grew, but I already had all the evening programming I had time for, so still never subscribed.

    Then YouTube came along, then Vimeo and DailyMotion, and I found that their content was more interesting than most of the stuff traditional TV was offering, so I stopped watching OTA TV and started watching streaming content instead, still borrowing box sets for TV shows that sounded interesting.

    Then both Netflix and TV stations started streaming their content online. I figured "Why not?" and started watching TV this way. I quickly found out that there were really only a few shows I was interested in despite all the choice out there, but was happy to be able to watch those few. Eventually, I ran out of interesting shows on Netflix and stopped subscribing, instead subscribing to more YouTube channels.

    And that's still where I am today. My foray into cable was short and underwhelming. It just wasn't worth what I paid for it, even for the basic package.

    As I said, I'm not a typical consumer, but coming at cable TV not from the "this is what we've always had" angle, even 20 years ago I saw no benefit to what they were offering. HBO always went to videocassette and into the library system back in the day, and I stopped being willing to watch programming when some broadcast station thought I should the day I stopped watching OTA TV.

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