Nearly A Million Americans Have Ditched Cable for Online TV

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It’s fun to speculate about the shift from television viewing to Internet.  When will it happen?  How long before there are more people watching online than on television?  There’s typically a lot of speculation in articles like these.  Heck, I’m guilty of it myself on more than one occasion.

But today we have some actual hard data to look at, thanks to the fine folks at The Convergence Consulting Group, LTD.  The Convergence Consulting Group, formed in 1996, provides strategy consulting for cable, satellite, telco, and online companies.  They have released the results of a new study that finally shed some light on this much-predicted shift from TV viewing to online viewing.

The biggest number—the one that’s going to get all the headlines and attention—is the one about cord-cutters.  Cord cutters are people who abandoned their cable television service completely in favor of online viewing, and in 2009 there were 800,000 of them.

Now, when you stack 800,000 up against the 300,000,000 Americans… it’s a pretty small number.

But when you take it on its own, considering how entrenched with cable television we have been historically as a society, well… 800,000 looks like a ton of people.  Think about just the people you know in your own life.  How many of your own friends have completely ditched cable service in favor of online viewing?  Maybe one?  And that’s a big maybe.  In fact, the people who are doing this are still considered pioneers—I saw a blog just the other day dedicated to charting the author’s life without cable as he tries to use the Internet to find all his favorite shows.

The fact is that we’re very near a tipping point of sorts.  I keep writing about online viewership for major sporting events like The Masters or the March Madness tournament solely because there is a shift going on, even if it hasn’t impacted your daily routine yet.

You can get darn near any show you’re looking for online—except for AMC’s fine dramas Mad Men and Breaking Bad, which I only mention because I missed Sunday’s Breaking Bad and went looking for it online.  But between Hulu and Fancast and YouTube and the individual networks’ sites, nearly 90% or more of what I watch on television can be found online.  And while I’m one of the people banging the drum for the move to online viewing, even I’m surprised that 800,000 people have cut out cable altogether.  Maybe the trend is moving faster than I thought it was.  The Convergence report even predicts a huge increase in cord-cutters for 2010, from 800,000 this year to 1.6 million.

Not all the data shows a mass exodus to online viewing.  New cable subscriptions actually went up from 1.46 million in 2008 to over 2 million in 2009 (with Verizon and AT&T making strong gains).  So even while online viewing steals consumers away from cable, cable is able to replace them with new subscribers at a rate of more than 2-to-1.

What about you?  Have you cut the cord?  Are you even remotely interested in leaving cable behind in favor of online viewing?  I’m interested in hearing where the rest of you land on this issue.  The change has been slow in coming for me personally, but I’m giving serious though to leaving behind the broadband (not to mention the monthly fee that comes with it).  Knowing I have the company of 800,000 others gives me the feeling that I’ll be just fine without cable.


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