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Report: 28% of U.S. Pay-TV Subscribers Were Once Cord Cutters

Matt Tamanini

Cutting the cord can be complicated. That’s why we here at The Streamable try to make it as simple as possible for you. But, in some cases, the change can be just too overwhelming and customers go back to the familiar linear TV experience.

A new study released by TiVo indicates that 26% of U.S. and Canadian consumers who have a pay-TV subscription at one point attempted to cut the cord. In the United States, that number is 28% (in Canada it’s 19%).

Four in 10 of those “cord-revivers” live in either New York or California and 46% are members of either Gen Z or the Millennial age group; undoubtedly because those age groups were more likely to attempt to cut the cord in the first place than older demographics.

While cost is often the reason that customers decide to leave their cable or satellite subscriptions behind, it is content that is drawing them back. The four most popular reasons why customers returned to a traditional TV subscription all revolved around programming that they weren’t getting otherwise, be it local channels or sporting events.

While the most sought-after programming has been shifting to streaming in recent years, the two biggest draws that traditional pay-TV still has is access to local content and live sports.

While virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPD) — services like Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV STREAM, fuboTV, and more — can bridge the gap between cutting the cord and the local content that they desire, the vast majority of consumers who watch local channels do so with a traditional TV subscription.

On the sports side, if a game is not available to a cord-cutter via one of their streaming services, nearly 2/3 of the time (64%), they find another way to watch it; including going somewhere that the game is available or by finding a (potentially shady) way to stream it anyway.

In addition to looking at individuals returning to paid TV options, the Q4 2021 TiVo Video Trends Report also tracked the use of streaming video services, and, like with cord-revivers, there was a significant difference amongst age groups.

The study saw that while American consumers averaged 10 video services apiece, respondents who were under the age of 40 averaged 12, while those over 40 averaged just six. Again, New York saw the highest rate of service usage averaging 13.4 per customer while Idaho (5.3 per respondent) was the lowest.

In the U.S. and Canada, the average number of video services used is 8.9, which unsurprisingly has increased dramatically during the pandemic. Since the start of 2020, the average consumer has added two video services to their streaming rotation, but that explosive growth slowed dramatically in Q2 of 2021 as people began to venture further out of their homes for entertainment again. The average rose just 0.1 over the past year.

Nearly 3/4 (73%) think that the number of video sources that they currently use is just right, while 19.5% think that it is too many. If you are doing the math, that means that only 7.5% of customers believe that they need to add more services to their viewing habits.

Not only are younger customers more likely to use a larger number of video services, but they are also more likely to use lower-cost options as well. Nearly eight in 10 (79%) Gen Z consumers use at least one ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) or free, ad-supported TV (FAST) service with the percentage decreasing as the age demographics increase.

In total, 66% of American respondents in TiVo’s report use at least one AVOD or FAST streamer while the average customer uses2.4 AVODs. Seventy-four percent of customers noted that the reason that they use AVOD platforms is simply because it is free and 54% wish that their subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services offered a free, ad-supported version as well.

While cord-cutting and streaming are clearly the future of television viewing as younger customers continue to lead the migration away from traditional TV, there are still lessons that streamers can learn about what it is that consumers want and how much they are willing to pay for it.

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