Skip to Content

Report: Only 8% of Pay-TV Subscribers Would Cut the Cord if Favorite Sport Went Streaming-Only

David Satin

The entertainment landscape is at something of a strange balance point. Streaming services have made an indelible imprint on the way that audiences consume media, but they have not yet caused the complete demise of pay-TV providers as many had predicted when streaming first caught fire. Many in the industry have pointed to live sports as pay-TV’s saving grace, the one thing keeping cable and satellite providers afloat as nearly all other types of programming migrate to streaming.

But a new report from Aluma Insights suggests that live sports might not be the sticking point that industry analysts think it is. Aluma’s numbers indicate that only 18% of pay-TV subscribers would be moderately likely to cancel their service if their favorite sport went streaming-only. That number drops to just 8% of respondents who said they would “definitely” cancel.

Critically, among respondents who said that pro football was their favorite sport, only 11% said that they would cancel their pay-TV subscriptions if the NFL shifted to streaming. That was well below Aluma’s expectations, especially considering that 80% of live TV sports viewers also subscribe to at least one of the big five subscription video-on-demand services (Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney+ and Hulu).

That’s likely bad news for anyone hoping that sports will be abandoning cable any time soon. If four out of five pay TV customers are already using major streaming apps, theoretically, they should be comfortable enough with them to be willing to access their favorite sports via those apps.

“We presented this scenario to survey respondents to get a sense of how bad it could possibly get for pay TV assuming the total shift of high-value sports from broadcast and cable to streaming services could be for pay TV,” Aluma founder and director of research Michael Greeson said “The findings are contrary to the dominant narrative that, without live TV sports, pay TV couldn’t survive. Perhaps live sports are less valuable to pay TV’s stickiness than we’ve long believed.”

The survey results weren’t completely good news for pay-TV providers, however. Aluma’s research also indicates that of subscribers to traditional pay-TV providers (primarily cable and satellite), only 24.3% said that their service fully satisfied their needs.

When researchers dug further and asked why these customers stuck with a service that wasn’t fully satisfactory, 34% of respondents said that it was because they were simply used to having it. Again, these numbers only represent respondents who access pay TV through a legacy MPVD (multichannel video programming distributor), so the data points to a big weakness waiting to be exploited by streaming providers.

One tactic streaming services might use to overcome the comfortability of pay-TV packages is to emulate the aspects of the experience that customers are most familiar with; something that many streamers have already begun doing. Platforms like Prime Video and Paramount+ are not only expanding their sports coverage, but they are also swelling the content offerings on their free ad-supported TV (FAST) services. These services allow customers to replicate the channel-flipping experience that they are familiar with while also removing one of streaming’s major paint points: Having to choose what to watch next.

On the other hand, all streamers might have to do to encourage the demise of pay TV is wait. If the cost of pay-TV subscriptions continues to rise while the number of channels and services they offer continues to fall, customers will likely be shaken from their apathy sooner or later. As much as streaming providers would like to hasten the demise of pay TV, they might be best served to just step aside and wait for what could be an eventuality.

DIRECTV STREAM Cash Back

Let us know your e-mail address to send your $50 Amazon Gift Card when you sign up for DIRECTV STREAM.

You will receive it ~2 weeks after you complete your first month of service.

Sling TV Cash Back

Let us know your e-mail address to send your $25 Uber Eats Gift Card when you sign up for Sling TV.

You will receive it ~2 weeks after you complete your first month of service.

Hulu Live TV Cash Back

Let us know your e-mail address to send your $35 Amazon Gift Card when you sign up for Hulu Live TV.

You will receive it ~2 weeks after you complete your first month of service.