Cutting the cord

Earlier this month, Megan Rose Dickey posted a short piece, "This chart will keep cable execs up at night", on Business Insider. Dickey picked up on a Nielsen report that estimated the number of "zero-TV" U.S. households (those not subscribing to cable) had grown from 2 million in 2007 to more than 5 million in the third quarter of 2012. That report was released in March of this year.

While it may seem intuitively obvious, Nielsen found that the younger you are, the more likely you live in a "zero-TV" household. Under the age of 25, a group that makes up 3.6% of all TV households, accounts for 19.3% of all "zero-TV" households, making them over-represented by a factor of more than five (5.36, in fact).

Age cohorts between 25 and 34 (1.73 times more likely) and 35 and 44 (1.22 times more likely) were also over-represented. From this data, Dickey concludes that people are increasingly abandoning their reliance on cable access, with the growth is most notable among those under the age of 35.

Still, the charts don't address "why" people are walking away from cable. One cause might be cost – cable prices have grown faster than the cost of living for an extended period of time. Another reason might be choice, or more specifically the lack of it when buying cable "bundles".

People may also feel more comfortable putting together their own mix of programming, drawn from Netflix and other non-cable services that support on-demand delivery as part of a basic subscription. Or, they might just feel overwhelmed by so much choice, in effect shutting down to simplify.

A lot of different things might be happening, maybe even more than one thing at a time. Given that, I'm not sure that media executives, including periodical and book publishers, should look at data like this and then respond by staying up all night.

If anything, the trends suggest a new set of opportunities to meet market demands in ways that might build on aspects of prevailing models. And if they require something new: well, you really didn't think you were going to keep doing the same thing for another 25 years, did you?

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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