Study: More TV viewers in U.S. 'cutting the cord'

By the end of 2011, some 2 million television watchers will have ditched their cable or satellite subscriptions, according to Convergence Consulting.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

A growing number of people are willing to ditch their cable or satellite subscriptions in favor of online, over-the-air, and streaming television options, a new study from the Convergence Consulting Group has found.

According to the researchers, 2.07 million U.S. television subscribers will have "cut the cord" between 2008 and the end of 2011. Between 2008 and 2009 alone, the firm said that 550,000 households cut the cord. Last year, it estimates 1 million households did the same.

Of course, that still represents a tiny fraction of the overall viewership. Convergence Consulting says that at the end of 2010, there were a total of 100.4 million TV subscribers in the U.S. across cable, satellite, and telephone services. That figure will inch up to just over 101 million by the end of this year.

And actually cutting the cord may not always be as easy as it is alluring. As CNET's David Katzmaier pointed out in his month-long attempt at cutting the cord last year, there are undoubtedly benefits to ditching cable. But in the end, he decided to go back to his television service.

"Cutting cable was harder than I thought, and in retrospect I should have done a few things differently," he wrote after deciding to reinstate his TV service.

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Beyond the logistical difficulties of cutting the cord, Convergence Consulting found that those who believe they're saving more by ditching their cable or satellite bill might not actually do so.

The research firm estimates that the average subscriber pays $74 a month for television service, and watches 120 hours of programming per month. The average cost of that service, the research firm says, is 62 cents per hour. Those who buy a TV series on iTunes pay $3 per hour, while renting the show costs $1.50 per hour, the research firm said. Only Netflix can best a monthly cable bill, since the average viewer pays 27 cents per hour for 30 hours of viewing or 20 cents for 40 hours. On a streaming and one-DVD plan, customers will pay 25 cents per hour.

Aside from traditional viewing, Convergence Consulting also examined Web viewership. According to the firm, 18 percent of weekly viewers watched one or two shows on the Internet last year. It believes that figure will edge up to 19 percent this year. However, total viewing on the Web accounted for just 5 percent of overall television programming viewership last year.

Advertising revenue generated through the networks' Web sites accounted for just 2.7 percent of their U.S. TV ad revenue. Convergence Consulting expects that figure to jump to 3.1 percent this year.

Update at 9:52 a.m. PT to include more information on viewership cost and advertising.