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Study: Only Half of U.S. TV Content Viewers Still Subscribe to Traditional Cable/Satellite Service, But Streaming Facing Headwinds

Half (51%) of TV content viewers in the United States subscribe to a traditional cable/satellite service, down from 63% a year ago, according to the just-released “State of Pay TV, OTT & SVOD 2022” report from Horowitz Research.

In 2020, cable/satellite service penetration was at 81%. 

Meanwhile, the share of TV content viewers who rely only on streaming has continued its upward trajectory, with almost four in 10 (37%) of TV content viewers paying for an SVOD service, but not for cable or satellite. That’s an increase from 30% in 2021.

Notably, the study also found a slight drop in subscriptions to SVOD services, even as the number of SVOD services has increased over the past few years and as the share of streaming compared to traditional viewing grows. In the 2021 study, three in four (74%) of TV content viewers said they subscribe to at least one SVOD service; in this year’s study, 62% said they subscribe (an additional 10% have access to additional SVODs by sharing/borrowing passwords). This decline is due in part to a drop in Netflix subscriptions.

Meanwhile, the number of TV content viewers leveraging free, ad-supported sources for TV content (antennas as well as free streaming services), has remained unchanged. Two in three (66%) said they use these services, on par with the number who subscribe to at least one SVOD.

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What is on the rise, the study found, is the monthly cost consumers are paying for streaming services, driven by an increase in the number of services available in the market, and price increases from Netflix, Hulu Plus Live TV, Disney+ and others. The Horowitz study found that on average, streaming services subscribers (including those with SVOD and/or vMVPD services such Sling TV or Hulu Plus Live TV) report spending $75.80 per month on their services — up $26 per month from the reported average spend last year. And, despite the proliferation of services, four in 10 (40%) TV content viewers in the 2022 study said they “have a hard time finding something to watch.”

With costs on the rise, perceptions of streaming as a better value than cable/satellite are beginning to erode, the study found. While in 2021 49% of consumers without cable/satellite services felt they were “saving a really good amount of money” by just relying on streaming, this number dropped to 39% in the current year’s study.  

The study findings suggest that churn, already an issue for streaming services, will become an even bigger challenge moving forward as consumers become even more cost-conscious, according to Horowitz. Almost one in five (18%) SVOD subscribers surveyed said they are planning to cancel at least one of their services, as are almost four in 10 (42%) of those subscribing to a vMVPD.

“It seems the streaming honeymoon is coming to an unavoidable end,” noted Adriana Waterston, chief revenue officer and insights and strategy lead for Horowitz Research. “What seemed like a fantasy come true — thousands upon thousands of hours of top-notch content available on-demand for almost no money and few, if any, ads — was never going to be a sustainable business model, given what it costs to produce and acquire great content. The next phase in this maturing industry will be a reset. We expect to see more advertising in free or low-cost, ad-supported tiers, such as the one Netflix is planning to offer, and more consolidation of services and subscriptions like what just happened with Discovery and WarnerMedia. Hopefully, for the consumer, this will translate to some cost savings, more predictable spending, and an even better user experience across the board. It will also translate to new opportunities for brands and advertisers to connect with audiences in new and innovative, interactive ways.”

 

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