Linear TV's cratering subscriber rate confirms it--the cord-cutting check is already in the mail

Daniel Frankel, FierceCable I sat around with a group of NBA fans Sunday at a Los Angeles-area imbibery to watch Game 2 of the NBA Finals, and listened as several of my fellow patrons discussed how "overrated" Cleveland's LeBron James is. 

The future Hall of Famer had just played a game for the ages. Forget for a moment that he had led an injury-decimated team to a victory on the road in one of the toughest, noisiest places to play in sports, and over what some consider to be one of the best NBA teams ever, the Golden State Warriors. Aren't these guys swayed by data? Thirty-nine points. Sixteen rebounds. Eleven assists. What else did they need to see to give James his due?

For these guys, the denial of James' greatness is rooted in absolute, irrational denial, not numbers or facts. 

The same dynamic, I suspect, is at play when many of us ponder pay-TV subscriber losses/additions, and still wonder if wholesale cord-cutting by U.S. consumers will soon get underway. When we look at other numbers--like, for instance, how many people are still watching linear TV--there really shouldn't be any debate that radical change in the way U.S. consumers watch television is already occurring. 

Look closer at the current consumption volume for linear television, which we did in our latest feature, and it's clear that the check is already in the mail for profound disruption of the U.S. video marketplace. There's no debate. This is happening. 

"The demographics are just relentless," says Joel Espelien, senior analyst for The Diffusion Group, one of the sources who helped us tell this story. "The linear TV audience is aging, and younger generations simply do not relate to linear TV at all. It has totally lost its cultural relevance, and there is no getting that back."

Of course, for pay-TV operators, there is a going forward, as they partner with SVOD services instead of battling them; as they program for users in myriad places, and on multiple devices; and as they design next-generation user experiences that make cable, satellite and IPTV services uncuttable for a U.S. consumer base still very much in love with television. 

In this feature, FierceCable ponders a future that is already here.--Daniel

Suggested Articles

Contrary to what stark video subscriber losses suggest about the state of the U.S. pay TV industry, PwC said that pay TV subscribers increase in 2019.

AT&T-owned DirecTV is prepping another round of price increases that will kick in early next year for subscribers to its satellite television service.

Comcast/NBCUniversal is planning an investor day on January 16 to discuss details about its upcoming streaming service, Peacock.