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Digitalsmiths-Pay-TV-Service-Changes-Dec2013Many pay-TV subscribers complain about the cost of their services, and new data [download page] from Digitalsmiths finds that subscribers are generally seeing higher bills compared to a year ago. With cost often fingered as a culprit in cord-cutting behavior, it makes sense that an increasing share of subscribers would have decreased or removed services in the past year – up from 13.4% in Q1 to 16.9% in Q3, per Digitalsmiths’ Q3 study. But look a little further, and a surprising result emerges: just as many (17.2% of) survey respondents said they increased or added services.

There’s plenty of jargon out there dealing with the removal (cord-cutting) or decreasing (cord-shaving or cord-thinning) of services, but far less about increasing services (cord-fattening?). That’s likely a reflection of the recent downturn in pay-TV’s fortunes, with net subscriptions contracting for several quarters now. But even with pay-TV’s shrinking base, it should be noted that a lot more shifting than cutting is occurring, with the dominant trend being subscribers moving from cable to IPTV. In keeping with that, the Digitalsmiths survey finds that more respondents are planning to change cable or satellite providers (6.9%) in the next 6 months than are planning to cut their service (2.9%) or switch to an online application or rental service instead (2%).

As for service increases and decreases, premium channels appear to be the flashpoint. Among the 16.9% who decreased their level of service, a plurality 47.2% said they cut their premium channel service. At the same point, among the 17.2% who claimed to have increased their level of service, a plurality 35.6% said they added premium channels. Premium channels certainly seem to be the most at risk from the rise of over-the-top sources like Netflix, as research from GfK has shown.

Meanwhile, the Q3 survey finds that levels of satisfaction with the value received from cable/satellite service providers is declining. About 1 in 5 respondents reported being “very satisfied” with the level of value, while 21.5% are unsatisfied. In the Q2 survey, more respondents reported being “very satisfied” (24%) than unsatisfied (17.3%). (The balance of respondents in both surveys are “satisfied.”)

About the Data: The data is based on a survey of almost 3,200 adults across the US and Canada.

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