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Netflix, Hulu drive U.S. consumers to cut cable cord

Researcher finds that 1 million U.S.-based customers cut the cord last year, but that's just a fraction of the more than 100 million cable or satellite subscribers.

Cutting the cord in hopes of saving money on television programming is often contemplated. But last year, relatively few cable or satellite subscribers in the U.S. actually did it, a new study shows.

The Convergence Consulting Group yesterday released its research on TV cord cutting to see how many people left their cable or satellite plans behind to access all their content over the Web. The firm found that 1.05 million people in the U.S. cut their TV subscriptions last year. Since 2008, 2.65 million people have decided against cable or satellite and gone to alternative services.

After cutting the cord, Convergence said that subscribers accessed Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, and other paid services to get their TV fix. They also headed online for free content and went to kiosks, like Redbox, to watch movies.

In a study on cord cutting Convergence conducted last year, it found that about 1 million people ditched their cable or satellite subscriptions in 2010. The company also noted that there were more than 100 million TV subscribers across the U.S. in 2010, and estimated there would be about 101 million by the end of last year.

Considering the number of cable and satellite subscribers remaining last year, it calls into question just how willing people are to cut the cord. Over the last couple of years, just 1 percent of the U.S. cable or satellite subscriber population actually cut the cord. What's more, Convergence believes that figure could drop to less than 1 million this year, as total cord cutters go to 3.58 million between 2008 and 2012.

Cutting the cord isn't so easy. A couple of years ago, CNET's David Katzmaier spent a month without cable TV, and although he noted several benefits to making the move, he ended up going back to his television service.

"Cutting cable was harder than I thought, and in retrospect I should have done a few things differently," he said.

Still, fewer people are becoming cable or satellite subscribers. Convergence found that just 112,000 TV subscribers were added last year, down from 272,000 in the prior year. Between 2000 and 2009, an average of 2 million new subscriber additions were tallied each year.