By all accounts cord cutting continued to set records in 2019, a trend that (despite some baseless claims to the contrary by industry executives) is only expected to accelerate this year. Customers continue to grow tired of paying their local cable TV provider hundreds of dollars per month for giant bundles of channels they don't watch, paired with some of the worst customer service of any industry in the States (a continued, impressive claim given the banking, airline, and insurance industries exist).
Despite years of the industry claiming cord cutting was "no big deal" or entirely nonexistent, the numbers from last year couldn't have been any clearer:
“The early read on traditional cord-cutting is ugly.” Last quarter was the worst on record for US pay-TV operators, per Michael Nathanson. pic.twitter.com/s2FpYxqCAW
— Lucas Shaw (@Lucas_Shaw) July 29, 2019
The problem is also being clearly reflected by cable TV and broadcast TV ratings. Outside of Fox News, cable TV news viewership continues to slowly but surely erode, with MSNBC losing 3% and CNN losing 9% of their viewers in 2019 (Fox News saw 3% growth). Traditionally well performing networks like USA saw notable viewership declines as high as 18% on the year:
"USA, which was the most watched cable network for almost a decade, slipped another spot from No. 4 last year to No. 5 in total viewers (-18%). In adults 18-49, it remained No. 2 behind Fox News but was down 16%. AMC was down 22% in viewers as its flagship drama The Walking Dead is starting to show its age FX was down 21%, TBS 17% and TNT 15%.
The biggest hits continue to come for channels that focus on kids' programming, as families continue to flock to on demand content from the likes of Netflix (and now Disney+):
"Disney Channel, a former No. 2 basic cable network, posted the largest year-to-year viewership decline, 30%, to drop to No. 28, with Disney Jr. logging the second biggest year-to-year drop, 25%. Those are linear ratings declines as young viewers flock to the Disney Channel’s app or website to watch its shows."
Since so many cable TV providers are also broadcasters (Comcast NBC Universal, AT&T Time Warner) it wouldn't be too hard to keep this trend in check by improving abysmal customer service and actually competing on price. Instead, most cable TV executives continue to push their luck and raise rates, or focus on things only certain to annoy consumers further (like Charter CEO Tom Rutledge's relentless whining about password sharing). That's in large part because most of these executives know their monopolies over broadband insulate them from real harm, allowing them to jack up the cost of broadband connections to counter any revenue losses on the TV side of the equation.
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