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Week In Review: Cord Cutting Still Not Happening; Snapchat’s Gen Z Users FTW

1. Cord Cutting Still Not Happening

Back in the 1970s there was a recurring joke on Saturday Night Live about the Spanish dictator, Generalissimo Francisco Franco still being dead. I’m reminded of it every time I see another report on cord cutting that concludes “still not happening.”

This latest report comes from Craig Moffat, and basically concludes that when you factor in the shift to vMVPDs, many of which are owned by the MVPDs, then the actual rate of cord cutting last quarter was something like 0.5%.

Why It Matters

All those reports you keep seeing about how the sky is falling, or at least the part of the sky that sits over Century City and Burbank, conveniently push the vMVPDs over into the “digital” category and even though the viewer is still paying out cash money every month to the likes of AT&T for the right to watch NBC, Discovery, CNN, ESPN et al, they’ve somehow decided they’re cord cutters.

They’re not (though it does make for better headlines) and as Moffat points out the “conversion rate” —the rate at which MVPD subscriptions are being replaced by vMVPD subscriptions is at 70%, which means that only 30% of those leaving their MVPD subscriptions behind are actually leaving any sort of pay TV behind. And when you plug that 30% into the entire universe of pay TV subscribers, they number about 0.5%.

As many of you know, we are big fans of the vMVPDs, the mesomorph bundles like Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV in particular (“mesomorph bundle” = 80-100 channels at around $40-$50/month) We feel they are the answer to TV Everywhere and have enough channel choices that the viewer doesn’t feel as if they’re giving anything up—they’re getting all the channels they want, plus a better and easier to use interface  at half the price they were paying for set top box service, and they can watch it on any device they want.

So there’s that.

There’s also the fact that pay TV penetration in the US is at somewhere between 80% and 85% and as a result, the MVPDs have some crazy high subscriber counts. So that when one of them reports they’ve lost 110K viewers, it sounds like a huge number until you do the math and realize it’s actually around 0.4% of their viewers.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a digital media executive or a member of the trade press, you need to chill with the “TV is dead” bit.

Similarly, even if everyone you know has cut the cord, that’s still not representative of “most people.”

If you’re an advertising executive, you can continue to spend money on TV and if you’re a TV network, you need to remember that you still need to innovate or those headlines will actually turn out to be correct. Change happens gradually and then all at once and right now we’re in the “gradually” stage. 

Just something to think about.


2. Snapchat’s Gen Z Users FTW

After hearing from, well, from just about everyone, but especially from investors, that Snapchat was way too confusing for anyone over the age of 25, TPTB at the platform decided to change the interface, implementing a bunch of changes that did nothing to make the interface more comprehensible to those over 25, but did manage to piss off Snapchat’s core Gen Z audience. Who were not particularly quiet about it.

So now they’re rolling many of those changes back.

Why It Matters

Snapchat is in flux right now. It’s the only social platform without a fake news problem—Snapchat handpicks publishers from among the major media outlets—but it’s also the only one without parents—I mean people over 30—using it.

Worse still, Snap seems to have forgotten that adults aren’t sitting around waiting to read news from Snap. So that the only way these updates are going to work is if Snap puts some marketing dollars behind them. Which they haven’t, and thus few people over the age of 30 are even aware that Snap changed the platform to try and lure them in, or that said change was quite controversial with their middle schoolers.

Unless it can start attracting users over 30, Snapchat will wind up being a great platform on which to reach Gen Z, but little else, possibly aging along with then as they grow up, possibly not. Which is too bad, because it has potential to be a whole lot more and has avoided the fake news conundrum.

What You Need To Do About It.

If you’re Snapchat, put some money in your marketing budget towards advertising the improved interface. 

If you’re an advertiser, let Snapchat know they need to do that in order to retain your support and also remember that their Discover section is 100% brand safe. 

If you’re a network and want to reach 20somethings, it doesn’t get any better than Snapchat, which reaches the whole audience, not random bits and pieces of it the way Twitter does.