« Back to Posts

The Problem With Today’s “TV Is Dead” Study

Last year, the pay TV ecosystem shed 0.68% of its total subscriber base.

(You can see the math for that claim here.)

That’s not a sexy number, so the media tends to ignore it.

Instead, they focus on things like eMarketer’s press release where they claim that “nearly 25% of US households will be cord-cutters by 2022.”

Unfortunately for TV-haters, eMarketer’s clickworthy numbers are based on the fact that they have included the 8 to 10 million people who have switched to vMVPDs in their “cord cutter” total.

Which is completely inaccurate.

Why? Well for one thing, broadcast and cable networks don’t really lose viewers when people switch from MVPD bundles to vMVPD bundles.

As we’ve noted many times before, it’s just a different delivery method. We call it “cord shifting” as the cable cord is being replaced by a broadband connection (often from the same provider.)

Otherwise, the main differences are in business models.

The most popular vMPVDs, services like Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV and AT&T TV Now, offer bundles with over 80 channels, including all of the major network groups. That includes local broadcast stations in almost every major market too.

vMVPDs offer distinct advantages over MVPD pay TV, everything from month-to-month contracts to much lower prices (for now) to full TV Everywhere functionality, which is why they have become so popular–Hulu Live TV alone added 2 million subscribers in 2018.

But if you want to spend your evenings watching NBC prime time, CNN, MTV and HGTV on a 75 inch HDTV in your living room, you’re not going to see a whole lot of difference between an MVPD subscription and a vMVPD one (beyond some occasional tech issues, that is.)

And if you’re a broadcast or cable network, you are still getting the same (if not higher) retrans and carriage fees. So not much has changed from your perspective either.

MVPDs don’t seem to be affected by the fact that they’re shedding pay TV subscribers either. As in they’re all still making lots of money.

We outlined the reasons why here, but TL;DR is they make more money from broadband than from pay TV, and when people switch to a vMVPD they usually increase their bandwidth speed.

Cord Cutting Is Real, It’s Just Not Real Yet

Our TV[R]EV Special Report on Ad-Supported OTT includes our prediction that cord cutting will increase to around 6% to 8% in the year or two immediately following the Flixcopalypse, as people realize that they’re spending all their time watching the various Flixes they are subscribing to, so why bother spending money on a pay TV bundle.

We further predicted that the response to that will be the introduction of super-skinny bundles consisting of local broadcast channels (over the air reception in much of the US sucks) with 24 hour news services and regional sports networks as add-ons.

Finally, we noted that cable networks without much in the way of brand image are most at risk in this new world, as they are the ones people will stop paying for first. So CNN, HGTV and ABC are all safe–people know what they stand for and they all have sizable fan bases.

But smaller cable networks may find it more profitable to turn to a studio model and produce five to 10 hours of originals each week that they then license to one of the Flixes, rather than try and keep the lights on 24/7.

In other words, the TV industry will look different post-Flixcopalypse, but it’s not going anywhere.

No matter how many times you read yet another “TV is dead” story.