Despite the pandemic, millions of people are still cutting the cable cord

getting rid of cable
Photo via Jason Trim/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Americans might be stuck at home and have more time to watch TV than ever thanks to the pandemic, but it hasn’t persuaded them to return to cable. In fact, new data shows that the pandemic has actually accelerated cord-cutting in 2020. More people than ever are getting rid of their cable subscriptions.

TechCrunch reports that new research from eMarketer found that over 6 million U.S. households plan to cancel their subscriptions with pay TV companies like cable, satellite, and telecom TV. By the end of the year, 31.2 million households will no longer pay for traditional pay TV options. 

According to eMarketer, the number of households with pay TV has declined by 7.5% year-over-year, which is its biggest drop ever. 

Experts say the combination of a rise in cheaper, trendier streaming alternatives, the suffering economy and high unemployment rate, and the loss of sports all contributed to the acceleration of cable TV’s downfall. 

“Consumers are choosing to cut the cord because of high prices, especially compared with streaming alternatives,” Eric Haggstrom, an eMarketer forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence, told TechCrunch.

In March, Cord Cutter News found that, on average, households paid $217.42 a month for their cable package. That’s more than what the average family spends on all other utilities combined, which is $205.50. 

Meanwhile, streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube TV are much less expensive and can often be shared by multiple people living in different households. For example, it costs just $15.99 a month for a Netflix subscription, shared with four screens at once. 

Many pay TV subscribers held onto their plans to watch sports. But in 2020, COVID-19 brought the cancelation of most sports.  

“The loss of live sports in H1 2020 contributed to further declines,” Haggstrom said. “While sports have returned, people will not return to their old cable or satellite plans.” 

In the first quarter of 2020, Forbes found that TNT was affected by the pandemic more than any other major cable network because it televises dozens of NBA post-season games. Its audience dropped by 63%. ESPN’s viewership dropped by 41%, and NBC SportsNet’s dropped by 87% during the same period. 

Despite the drop in subscribers, pay TV remains a staple for most households in the U.S. With 77.6 million users, more homes have a pay TV subscription than do not. However, trends show that number will continue to decline over time, even as the world moves past the pandemic. eMarketer predicts that by 2024, more than a third of all U.S. households will have decided to get rid of cable.

Sources: TechCrunch, Cord Cutter News, Forbes, Netflix

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