Digitalsmiths: Over 32% of cable subs are 'on the fence' about cord-cutting

Add one more study to the litany of cord-cutting woes faced by pay-TV providers. According to a new Digitalsmiths study, 32.4 percent of current cable, satellite and IPTV subscribers say they're "on the fence" about keeping their service and would need enticement to stay. And consumers are increasingly aware of the expanded OTT options available to them, such as Sling TV, making for interesting times in the cable biz.

"Added together, 47.7 percent of respondents need immediate attention to save them from cord-cutting, cord-cheating, or switching providers," Digitalsmiths said in its latest "Q1 2015 Video Trends Report."

TiVo-owned Digitalsmiths conducts the survey quarterly via a third-party service. For the first quarter, it surveyed 3,144 consumers across the U.S. and Canada, aged 18 and over, with Digitalsmiths analyzing the results.

The top three causes for such subscriber discontent were obvious: Increasing fees for TV and Internet service, along with poor customer service, led the respondents' reasons for wanting to drop their provider. The survey found that 59.8 percent of those surveyed are spending more than $100 a month for bundled pay-TV services.

Digitalsmiths OTT service awareness

Consumer awareness of OTT services. (Source: Digitalsmiths Q1 2015 Video Trends Report)

Where would dissatisfied viewers go if they completely dropped their pay-TV service? If the survey respondents' awareness of OTT services is any indication, a large number might go to Hulu Plus first. More than half of the respondents, 51 percent, are familiar with Hulu's SVOD service. Interestingly, the next most-recognized OTT service is Sling TV, Dish Network's linear TV streaming service. Just 11.9 percent of respondents were familiar with it. And 11.4 percent knew about the upcoming PlayStation Vue linear OTT service. In last place was CBS All Access, with just 10.5 percent of respondents being aware of its existence. (Note that Netflix was not included in this survey question.)

The other component of cord-cutting, of course, is cost. The survey looked briefly at what consumers are paying, on average, for SVOD services. More than half, 54.4 percent, of all the respondents have an SVOD subscription like Netflix or Hulu already. Of those, 51.8 percent spend $6 to $11 per month on SVOD services. As in previous quarters, respondents cited factors like convenience, price, and the ability to watch entire seasons in their decision to subscribe to such OTT providers.

"Additionally, Digitalsmiths believes one main contributing factor to this growth is the number of supported devices that consumers can leverage to watch video content," the report said.

Despite the growing number of dissatisfied viewers and awareness of OTT services, it's a long way from game over for cable operators. Customer service is a metric that can be improved, with even truculent Comcast making an effort to improve its reputation in this area. And pay-TV providers are actively experimenting with "skinny bundles," hoping to keep fence-riders in the fold a bit longer with pared-down channel offerings and lower prices.

For more:
- see the release (registration req.)

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