Cord cutting gets MORE press, this time debunking the 'myth,' sort-of

Want to start an argument? Just drop the phrase "cord-cutting" in a room full of cable company execs, over-the-top delivery proponents and bankers and watch the fun begin.

Depending upon whom you ask, cord cutting in the United States is either a breakaway trend that spells doom, or an overblown--and misunderstood--phenomenon that is really a non-starter.

Last week, audience measurement company Nielsen threw its own two cents into the ring in "Busting the cord-cutting myth: Video in the interactive age."

Nielsen contends that its research shows that cord cutting is limited to a specific demographic, primarily young, emerging households.

Nielsen also said that households that have broadband but no cable generally reflect a younger group of college graduates and lower- to middle-income consumers, a group that Nielsen contends watches 40 percent less TV per day than the national average. And while they stream about twice the average amount of video, they still only stream about 10 minutes per day.

Among Nielsen's findings:

  • Online video is on the increase (it was up 6 percent year-over-year).
  • Y-o-Y, people spent 9 percent more time watching online video.
  • Online video makes up under 2.5 percent of total video consumption.
  • Broadband-only households have been, essentially steady from 2009 to 2010, while households with both cable and broadband have grown significantly.
  • Cord cutting in Nielsen's view? "Purely fiction."

Michael Greeson, a founder of research company TDG mentioned to me last week at OTTCon in Atlanta that TDG had some new thoughts on cord cutting as well, essentially agreeing with Nielsen, but with the caveat that young, newly minted college graduates may not be any different than their parents when it came to cord cutting... or not cord cutting.

Greeson said his data didn't show any significant difference in the propensity of college students or recent grads to drop, or not subscribe to, a pay-TV provider, pointing out that the demo was so tied to HBO offerings and ESPN that they were more likely simply to shop a service, like a basic satellite subscription, than to do without.

So, is OTT delivery of video just an augmentation to pay-TV or broadcast TV? Or is it a threat? What do you think? -Jim