Pay TV Operators Must Go Mobile To Combat Cord Cutting

Research from consumer tech market research firm Parks Associates has confirmed that the boom in mobile video viewing is having an impact on cord cutting.

While this study is confined to the US where cord cutting began earlier and has sliced deeper into legacy pay TV subscriber numbers as well as revenues, some indicators suggest that a similar trend is also prevalent in other developed markets, especially Europe. Meanwhile in some developing markets, especially in Sub Saharan Africa, many consumers are going straight to mobile TV, bypassing traditional distribution mechanisms altogether.

The key statistic from the Parks Associates report, Examining Broadband Cord Cutters, was that US broadband households which state they are highly likely to cut the cord in the next 12 months watch more than six hours of video content on their smart phone each week, against an average 2.5 hours among all US broadband households. This gels with other studies suggesting that cord cutters are skewed towards younger demographics and especially Millennials, although the trend towards more mobile viewing is ubiquitous.

In particular, fixed broadband providers that fail to offer mobile services away from the home were most susceptible to cord-cutting among their current subscribers, according to the report. Shrewder operators have already acted on this trend, such as US cable operators Comcast and Charter, which have introduced mobile options to extend their service base.

“Roughly 10 per cent of broadband subscribers are likely broadband cord-cutters, with half of them highly likely to make the change in the next 12 months,” said Brett Sappington, Senior Research Director and Principal Analyst, Parks Associates. “Many are satisfied with their current provider overall, but these subscribers are aware of the other options available to them and could become actual cord-cutters if their current service does not continually meet their needs.”

The research notes that two thirds of broadband households currently subscribe to a cable internet service, three in ten subscribe to DSL or fiber optic, and one third use mobile data services. Verizon, AT&T, and Frontier are the largest providers of DSL and fiber-based fixed-line services.

“Potential broadband cord-cutters rely on their mobile devices for entertainment,” Sappington added. “They are significantly more likely to watch live video content via mobile, including live TV broadcasts and livestreaming, averaging an hour more per week each compared to average broadband households. As 5G mobile and 10G fixed broadband services start to deploy, the substantial performance improvements will be attractive to this segment of subscribers, which will drive many providers to match these offerings in order to achieve parity in competition and messaging.”

These findings gel with another US study from eMarketer whose results were published June 2019, reporting that for the first time viewing on mobile devices, counting smart phones and tablets together, is on the verge of overtaking traditional TV, with the latter including content downloaded from the Internet to view on the big screen as well as legacy broadcasting. It forecast that Americans by the end of 2019 will have spent an average of 3 hours, 43 minutes daily on mobile devices, not counting calls, and 3 hours, 35 minutes watching TV.

However the wider story, according to eMarketer, is that video viewing is fragmenting both between devices and services. This leaves the big screen in the living room, family room or bedroom as still the top video consumption device, but yet increasingly seen as just another digital screen.

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