Survey: 64% lack long-term interest in cable TV

April 21, 2020
According to a recent survey of more than 2,600 U.S. consumers by The Trade Desk (NASDAQ:TTD), 64% of U.S. households with at least one screen have cut the cord with ...

According to a recent survey of more than 2,600 U.S. consumers by The Trade Desk (NASDAQ:TTD), 64% of U.S. households with at least one screen have cut the cord with cable TV, are planning to cut the cord, or never subscribed. The survey also highlighted major differences in cord-cutting behavior by age group.

The percentage of U.S. households that have cut the cable TV cord, are planning to, or have never subscribed:

  • All households - 64%
  • 18-34 age group - 74%
  • 35-54 age group - 64%
  • 55+ age group - 56%

The 18-34 age group has long been coveted by advertisers because of their disproportionally high disposable income, because they are at a stage in life where they are starting to build long-term brand loyalties, and because they are trendsetters for all age groups. That they are aggressively moving toward a new model of TV consumption suggests that TV broadcasters and advertisers will have to develop new strategies for reaching them.

While the majority of American households currently subscribe to cable, the research indicates that cord-cutting will accelerate in the future. The urgency of those shifts is only becoming more apparent as almost all U.S. consumers stay at home. Of those households that do still have cable TV subscriptions, 11% of those surveyed plan to cut the cord by the end of the year. That figure jumps to 18% within the 18-34 age group. The data represents a significant increase over the approximately 3% annual decrease in traditional pay TV subscriptions as predicted by eMarketer in July 2019 (prior to the stay-at-home directives).

Those trends are expected to accelerate the longer that live sports programming remains suspended in the United States. According to the survey, the majority of Americans - 60% - say watching live sports is the primary reason they have kept their cable TV subscriptions.

"With only a quarter of young adults having any long-term interest in traditional cable TV, in a few years we won't be talking about linear or cable TV at all. It will all be online and streaming," said Brian Stempeck, chief strategy officer, The Trade Desk. "For broadcasters and advertisers, it's now all about how quickly they can pivot to where the eyeballs are moving, and many of them are already investing heavily in order to succeed in a world of connected TV."

The survey indicates that American TV consumers favor ad-supported streaming over subscription-based streaming as more and more Americans watch TV content via connected devices such as smart TVs - and 18-to-34-year-olds are once again leading that trend. Overall, 35% of those consumers would rather watch a free streaming service with advertising or some ads for a cheaper subscription, vs. 31% who would prefer to pay for a subscription with no ads.

The preference for ad-supported services increases when the viewer receives value in return. For example, 66% of 18-to-34-year-olds would prefer to watch a streaming service with ads every other episode in order to reduce their monthly streaming costs. That number drops to 55% for the 35-54 age group and 47% for the 55+ age group.

Younger age groups also have a larger appetite for ads that are relevant to their interests. By a ratio of 3-2, the 18-34 age group prefers tailored ads, the highest ratio of any age group. That suggests that younger viewers have the greatest awareness and appreciation for the value exchange between relevant advertising and access to free premium content.

The research also indicates that the leading cause of frustration with streaming advertising among American subscribers is having to watch the same ad repeated multiple times (cited by 48% of subscribers). The second leading cause of frustration is having to watch too many ads overall (cited by 45%), followed by the number of ad breaks (cited by 37%).

"As more consumers shift to connected TV, broadcasters and advertisers can more easily address issues of ad frequency and ad volume, in ways that are not possible in a traditional TV environment," said Stempeck. "With CTV, the advertiser can work with an ad tech partner to understand who was exposed to an ad, even across devices, and can reduce ad frequency as a result. In addition, with CTV, advertisers can apply more data science to their advertising, making it more relevant to the consumer without compromising their privacy. This increases the value of the ads, which means lower ad volume, over time."

The online survey was conducted by YouGov on April 1-3. It's a representative survey with a total sample size of 2,681 adults in the United States. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults (aged 18+).        

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