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
    Anon, 31 Mar 2015 @ 7:00am


    If "free" TV is going the same direction as in Canada - even the main attractions, such as pro sports, are working their way onto extended channels which cost extra. Thus, the major appeal of local "broadcast" TV is disappearing. Series? Neflix (where you can binge watch). News? Internet. Commercials? Why???

    Take as an example - a year or so ago I got into watching Weeds. Obviously, not on regular TV any more. Watch on Netflix. Ran out of seasons. Get the next one on US Netflix with VPN. Don't have the last 2 seasons? Download. Same for homeland. Watch two seasons on Netflix. Switch to UK Netflix for season 3. Download the last season because nobody has it. See the pattern?

    The biggest advantage is being able to binge-watch. Sadly, some of the more amateurish series are painful to binge-watch. (24, which I never saw originally, are a bunch of bumbling boy scouts. The wildest fiction about it, you know it was set in the future because the president is black.)

    Cable TV is following newspapers into oblivion; desperately trying to suck more money from fewer people by any form of paywalling things people can get elsewhere for free. They just have a lot further to fall than does the Podunk Times.

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