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Survey Says 27% of U.S. Households Plan to Cut the Cord in 2021

Stephanie Sengwe

It looks like 2021 is going to be another year pay-TV will be hemorrhaging customers, according to the Future of TV survey by The Trade Desk. The company found that customers are leaving the cable space even more rapidly than before as 27 percent of U.S. cable TV subscribers are planning to cut their subscriptions by the end of 2021. This number has nearly doubled the 15 percent of cable subscribers who reported cutting the cord in 2020.

The accelerated pace can of course be attributed to the COVD-19 pandemic which has altered the way people consume their content. The Trade Desk is reporting that almost 39 percent of sports viewers are now watching live sports events via connected TV such as ad-supported streaming services and social media platforms. Only 30 percent of U.S. consumers attribute live sports as the reason they’ll keep their cable subscription. The number is significantly down from the 60 percent that cited live programming, including sports, just nine months prior.

“COVID has accelerated cord-cutting trends that were already underway, to a point where less than 50 percent of U.S. households today have a cable subscription. It’s not because U.S. consumers have fallen out of love with TV, but that there are now more convenient ways of consuming it,” said Tim Sims, chief revenue officer, The Trade Desk. “That even applies to traditional cable mainstays, such as live sports. As more broadcasters launch and expand their streaming services, these gaps are only going to widen.”

Though the tide is shifting, viewers still have their own stipulations. The survey found that 51 percent of U.S. consumers don’t want to spend more than $20 in total per month on streaming subscriptions. Not only that, but U.S. TV viewers are more than five times more likely to prefer free or low-cost streaming TV with ads, over streaming services with higher monthly subscription fees with no ads (72 percent versus 14 percent), The Trade Desk reports.

The survey corroborates previous sentiment shared by Tubi’s Tubi’s VP of Business Development, Andrea Clarke-Hall, late last year.

“I think it predates the pandemic. I remember last CES the buzz was that 2020 was going to be the year of AVOD, that’s what all the research analysts were putting out there. I think it’s because of a number of factors: the SVOD market was maturing and saturating so there was less and less library content. Everyone was focused on originals,” she stated during Parks Associates Future of Video conference.

“There were also all these exciting acquisitions happening, so all of a sudden these independent AVOD services were now having much deeper pockets behind them. All of that was happening before the pandemic came about. We were seeing tremendous growth in January and February. I think the pandemic accelerated what was already happening.”

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