ESPN: Cord cutting exaggerated in the U.S.

As promised in December, ESPN has issued another quarterly report saying it isn't seeing evidence of cord cutting. The programmer said its analysis of data from Nielsen shows 0.18 percent of subscribers to pay-TV services cut the cord between the fourth and first quarter; that's better than the 0.28 percent who cut the cord in the third quarter last year.

But, ESPN said, even that loss was offset by the addition of new subscribers who previously were broadcast-only households. "So the net loss between the groups was zero," according to the study.

ESPN's study is based on data from households where pay-TV subscribers also have high-speed Internet connections.

"We continue to see minuscule amounts of cord-cutting among U.S. households," Glenn Enoch, VP of Integrated Media Research of ESPN stated. "Rather than disturbing the existing avenues of distribution, the continued growth of broadband penetration and use of online video provides a tremendous opportunity for growth in media consumption across all platforms."

Most likely to cut the cord? About 71 percent were non- or light-TV/video watchers.

In December, Disney-owned ESPN said it was convinced cord cutting worry was overblown.

"We got a little worn out reading headline after headline saying, 'Cord-cutting, it's a disaster; young people are abandoning TV.' For our strategic purposes, we needed to know what was really going on," said Glenn Enoch, ESPN's VP for integrated media research. Nevertheless, Enoch said ESPN would revisit the Nielsen data quarterly to monitor the trend.

The data is from the same households Nielsen uses to create its television ratings. And, as pundits pointed out, "it comes as little surprise that the Nielsen sample found that among heavy and medium viewers of sports, the research showed what Mr. Enoch called "zero cord-cutting."

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