Growing Numbers Of Pay TV Subscribers Say They’ll Cut The Cord, But Don’t: Survey

This is a familiar dilemma for pay TV providers: Lots of subscribers who threaten to cancel the service are full of it. The phenomenon shows up clearly in the results of Morgan Stanley’s 3rd Annual Streaming Video Survey, out today. About 17% of pay TV customers in an online poll with 2,500 adults recently said that they’re willing to cut the cord over the next 12 months, with 8% saying that they “definitely” will do so. That would be a catastrophe for most Big Media companies; their profits largely come from cable channels or services. But here’s the thing: 16% gave the same answer last year, and 15% in 2011. And total pay TV subscription numbers remained basically flat. There’s a similar pattern with pay TV customers who say that they’ll cut premium channels this year: 26% recently said they plan to pare back, roughly even with last year (27%) and 2011 (26%). Even so, last year the number of subscribers to HBO, Showtime and Starz was up 4.8%. It’s too bad, because the survey — which has a plus/minus 1.5% margin of error — offers some interesting insights into consumer views about new media. For example, Morgan Stanley found that Netflix subscribers primarily like the service because it’s inexpensive (about $8 a month) and has a lot of content. The number of hours people say they spend each week watching movies on a TV set was up 9% to 5.7, with the biggest growth among 30-to-44-year-olds. And about 40% of viewers say they don’t buy TV shows or movies online because the price is too high.

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