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Video and Broadband Demand

One of the obvious drivers of broadband usage is online video, and a study earlier this year by the Leichtman Research Group provides insight into the continuing role of video growth in broadband usage. The company conducted a nationwide poll in the US looking at how people watch video, and the results show that Americans have embraced online for-pay video services.

The survey concentrated on what it calls SVOD service (subscription video-on-demand). In the industry, this category includes pay services like Netflix and Disney +, but does not include the online services that mimic the networks covered by traditional cable TV like Sling TV. This is the eighteenth annual nationwide survey by LRG that looks at video usage.

One of the most interesting results of the survey is how many households still buy some form of pay-TV service. 74% of homes pay for a full cable TV service. About 2/3 of all households still buy traditional cable TV from cable companies or satellite providers. This means that 8% of homes now buy video an online service that mimics traditional TV channels such as Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, or fuboTV. That's no longer a surprising statistic when we saw in September that Hulu + Live TV is now the fifth-largest provider of video, in front of Verizon.

Even considering that many homes are buying full video packages online, the statistics show a continuing decline in traditional TV viewers. Where 74% of homes buy some form of cable service today, that's way down from the 85% of homes in 2015 and the peak of the TV pay-market at 88% in 2010. This shows that 14% of all homes have stopped buying pay-TV in the last decade.

Distribution of Pay-TV and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) – Source: Pay-TV in the U.S. 2020, Leichtman Research Group

The survey summarized cable households in another interesting way:

  • 60% of homes pay for a full TV service and also buy at least one SVOD service like Netflix.
  • 14% of homes buy a full pay-TV service but do not subscribe to an additional SVOD service like Amazon.
  • 20% of homes buy an SVOD service like Netflix but don't pay for a full TV line-up.
  • Only 6% of homes don't pay for any TV service.

The survey also summarizes the use of SVOD service like Netflix in a way I hadn't seen before:

  • The survey showed that 79% of households using traditional cable TV (from a cable company or satellite TV service) also purchase an online video service.
  • 76% of households that don't subscribe to traditional cable TV pay for an online video service.
  • However, 96% of customers who subscribe to an online video service that mimics traditional cable TV also buy at least one additional for-pay TV service.

The survey also shows that age is still a factor for paying for a full for-pay TV service. 81% of adults over 55 have a for-pay TV service, 76% of those between 35 and 54 have a pay-TV service, and only 63% of those between 18 and 34 have pay-TV service. This is the trend that is making TV less valuable for advertisers that want to reach younger audiences.

A few other interesting factoids coming out of the survey:

  • 38% of consumers who have moved in the last year do not buy a full for-pay TV service. This verifies something we've seen in many surveys where respondents say they are thinking of cutting the cord, but then don't do it. Perhaps when life presents an easy option to cut the cord, such as when moving, consumers finally decide not to resubscribe to pay-TV. That would imply there is still a large potential pool of cord-cutters in the market.
  • 13% of all TV households use a TV antenna rather than subscribe to a pay-TV service for local channels.

Buried somewhere in these statistics are the millions of rural homes that don't have the option to stream video.

By Doug Dawson, President at CCG Consulting – Dawson has worked in the telecom industry since 1978 and has both a consulting and operational background. He and CCG specialize in helping clients launch new broadband markets, develop new products, and finance new ventures. Visit Page

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