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Pay TV on back foot

News, 10 December 2015

NEW YORK: Almost one-third of all US consumers – over 70m people – are thinking of making changes to their paid TV service, with pay-TV "defectors" more than twice as common as "desirers" of more TV service, a new survey has found.

In Cord Evolution", insights provider GfK MRI detailed consumers' use of both traditional and streaming TV services, and identified ten groups on the "cord spectrum", from Cord Nevers and Cord Cutting Regretters to Cord Loyalists and Cord Returners.

Four of these groups fell into the category of "Defectors" – those who have reduced their paid (cable or satellite) TV service or are thinking of doing so.

Another four are "Desirers", who are generally loyal to traditional paid TV and/or are thinking of adding services.

Unfortunately for pay-TV companies, the numbers in the first category are more than double those in the second.

Almost 50m people, or 21% of the US population, were classed as Defectors, while just 22m, or 9% of the population, were Desirers.

Further, and contrary to common assumptions, Defectors tended to have slightly higher incomes than Desirers ($62,000 per year, versus $60,000) and to stream less – 62% of Defectors streamed video in the past month, versus 72% of Desirers.

Defectors were also older than Desirers, less likely to have children in their households, and slightly more likely to be male, the report found.

Desirers were more passionate about TV content and more likely to engage with it and also had higher receptivity to advertising.

"Today's TV landscape has transformed into one big 'trade-off' ecosystem," said Christie Kawada, EVP of Product Management and Innovation at GfK MRI, explaining that most consumers had to choose which services were within their budget, so taking the shows that came with those and sacrificing others in return.

"The good news for content providers is that content still drives most viewing behaviour," he added, "so regardless of where content is offered, viewers will find a way to get it.

"What that means for content providers and distributors is that, first, viewers have not hit their threshold yet for 'enough' content. And, second, it is up to the experts in the TV space to figure out how to monetise and upsell on an ever-cannibalising business model."

Data sourced from GfK; additional content by Warc staff