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A significant contributor to the declining pay-TV penetration in the US is the presence of people who have never signed up in the first place – and that group numbers 31 million Americans, per new figures [press release] published by GfK. But among these ‘cord-nevers’, as they have been coined, some 27% say they plan on signing up for a pay-TV service within the next six months.

In what could be seen as good news for advertisers keen to reach mass audiences as ad-free services grow in numbers, of those respondents planning to subscribe to pay-TV this year, 7 in 10 said they will subscribe to a traditional service (cable, fiber optic, or satellite).

Additionally, 3 in 10 of respondents who say they will start paying for television service intend to sign up a streaming TV package such as Hulu with Live TV or Sling TV, with 41% of those individuals being between the age of 18-34 years. This stat corresponds with other current streaming TV package subscriber demographics, with a study by Leichtman Research Group finding that more than two-fifths (42%) of individuals between the ages of 18-34 years subscribe to a vMVPD service.

So why are individuals who have never paid for traditional television planning to attach the cord now? It may come as some surprise to hear that the largest percentage of respondents (27%) said they wanted to be able to channel surf. The ability to surf channels all in one place was particularly popular with the 35-49 age group, with 46% choosing it as one of their main reasons for subscribing.

While the cost of pay-TV remains a concern for many Americans, 23% of respondents (30% among 18-34-year-olds) reported that one reason they are likely to subscribe to pay-TV in the next six months is that they can get a good deal on a TV package. Some 17% also said one of their reasons for subscribing was because pay-TV was worth the expense.

In some cases, the reasons why cord-nevers start paying for TV services are similar to the reasons why some individuals have never cut the cord. In prior research by GfK, 15% of respondents said their main reason for not cutting the cord was because they needed pay-TV to watch the shows they want. Similarly, this latest research revealed that 18% of the cord-nevers who are considering subscribing say it’s so they have better access to the shows they want to watch.

Being able to watch the networks they want to watch (18%), the ability to watch live news (17%) and wanting to watch live programming as it airs (16%) were other reasons for connecting the cord. This is notable given that streaming services have been winning the content wars with traditional TV.

About the Data: Research is based on roughly 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews in MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer®, asking about cord intentions. Cord Evolution research tracks levels of “cord disruption” (who is cutting, who is increasing) among 10 unique viewing groups, revealing the impact of new digital offerings on traditional
cord subscriptions and linear behavior.

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