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Brits opt for 'cord shaving'

News, 18 March 2016

LONDON: A majority of UK households are now paying a TV or VOD subscription but Britons are half as likely as viewers globally to take the plunge and cut the cord completely, a new study has said.

Nielsen's Global Video-on-Demand Report – which polled more than 30,000 online respondents in 61 countries – revealed that nearly seven in 10 (69%) Britons online reported paying a household subscription to watch live broadcast or on-demand programming.

Satellite is by some distance the preferred TV subscription format in the UK, cited by 37% of respondents. Across the rest of Europe just 21% said they had satellite TV subscriptions.

Cable TV has made greater inroads across Europe – and the rest of the world – than it has in the UK, where the proportion of subscriptions stands at roughly half that elsewhere. Around one quarter (24%) of UK pay TV subscriptions were to cable providers, compared to a figure of 44% in mainland Europe.

Video-on-demand (VOD) services such as Netflix and Amazon accounted for 20% of subscriptions, below the global average of 26% but far ahead of the rest of Europe where only 11% have so far picked up this option.

Nielsen also noted that it was "encouraging news" for satellite and cable providers that British subscribers were only half as likely (15%) as the global average (32%) to be planning cord cutting – replacing their satellite/cable contract with an online service.

"The increasing popularity of online-only TV services will continue to put pressure on the likes of Sky and Virgin, but a wholesale replacement of these traditional subscription players is unlikely," according to Terrie Brennan, EVP/Digital for Europe at Nielsen.

"For most UK viewers, online VOD and traditional subscription services are complementary, so we're more likely to see 'cord shaving' – consumers choosing slimmer subscription packages from the traditional players – rather than cancelling them outright," she added.

The type of content viewed in the UK using on-demand services contrasted markedly with that viewed in most other parts of the world.

Britons were more likely to watch TV programmes (74%) on-demand than films (64%). Globally, however, the reverse was broadly the case: many more people are using VOD to watch films (80%) than TV programmes (50%).

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff