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Cord-cutter wannabes are still a small group, but growing

People who are paying for TV but want to cut the cord remain a niche segment, but one that's getting bigger, especially among young people who yawn at sports, according to a study.

Devices like Google's Chromecast, Roku boxes and Apple TV stream online video through televisions. Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

NEW YORK -- Do you have what it takes to join a small but growing group of cord cutters? You'd probably be young and indifferent to sports, according to research released Thursday.

People keen to become cord cutters, a term for those who forsake a traditional pay-TV packages for online alternatives like Netflix, remain a small niche. A June study by Frank N. Magid Associates found that just 2.9 percent of US pay-TV consumers are "very likely" to cancel their service in the year ahead. But that's up from 2.7 percent last year and 2.2 percent two years earlier.

The Magid data also show young consumers -- people 25 to 34 years old -- are more likely to want to drop their pay-TV package, at 4.9 percent. ESPN viewers, though, aren't going to be dropping cable anytime soon -- only 1.4 percent of ESPN watchers are likely to cut the cord.

For all the noise about cord cutting, and for all the dire statistics about cable company subscribers stagnating or falling, data about the trend has continued to show the phenomenon is far from mainstream. The numbers from Magid reflect the current landscape logically: online video watching is most prevalent among young video watchers, and because of the live nature of sports and the limited amount of live sports video online currently, sports fans are the segment with the fewest alternatives outside traditional pay TV like cable.

That may change, however, as online options become more robust. In March, Dish Network unveiled a deal with the Walt Disney Co., owner of such networks as ABC and ESPN, to give Dish the right to stream video, live and on demand, online. Wednesday, Sony said its coming cloud-based TV service will carry 22 networks from Viacom -- the parent of MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon -- at launch.

"These are very small numbers in terms of future cord cutting from American consumers, but in mass media, very small numbers are very important, too," said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, who presented the data at a Goldman Sachs media investor conference here Thursday.