There are now approximately 31 million “cord never” adults in the U.S. - people who have never paid for a traditional pay-TV service - according to MRI-Simmons’s latest Cord Evolution research. This represents 12% of the U.S. population, an increase from 9% that MRI-Simmons found in 2017. Cord nevers have a median age of 33 and household income of $52,800 (up from $41,500 two years ago).
With the massive explosion of streaming options, it is easier than ever for viewers to avoid becoming a pay-TV subscriber. It is even more alluring for younger viewers for whom streaming has played a bigger part in their lives and who are less wedded to traditional channel surfing and linear viewing.
In fact, MRI-Simmons found that just 27% of cord nevers, or around 8 million adults, said they intend to sign up for a pay-TV service in the next 6 months. Of those who said they’ll sign up, 70% said they’ll choose a traditional pay-TV service, while 30% said they’ll chose a virtual pay-TV service like Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, etc).
Looked at the other way, nearly three-quarters of cord nevers do not plan to subscribe to pay-TV. And of course, intentions often don’t translate into action, so a more accurate forecast of cord nevers who will actually sign up for pay-TV may be closer to 10%-15%.
For younger cord nevers, the main appeal for those intending to sign up for pay-TV appears to be price, with 30% of 18-34 year olds citing “I can get a good deal on a pay-TV package.” No doubt this reflects awareness of the aggressive promotions that both traditional and virtual pay-TV providers have deployed. But just behind, cited by 29% of 18-34 year-olds was “It is easier to watch/find shows,” which may indicate that even for younger cord nevers, they still understand that pay-TV is the primary route to access popular TV shows they value.
Meanwhile, for older viewers (35-49 and 50+ years-old), valuing pay-TV seems rooted in tradition. The top reason 35-49 year-old pay-TV intenders cited was “I want to be able to channel surf” (46%), with 50+ also citing it as the primary reason (31%). The 35-49 year-old viewers cited “I want to watch live news” next with 30%, while 22% of 50+ cited “It is the only way to watch the TV networks I want to watch.”
With streaming services from Disney, WarnerMedia and Apple coming later this year, cord nevers are going to have even more choices - and reasons not to subscribe to a pay-TV service. All of this highlights the ongoing disruption happening throughout the TV industry.