There is a healthy amount of debate surrounding cord-cutting in the entertainment and media industries. Reports from a variety of sources proclaim in alarmist, hedged and repudiating manners the extent of this phenomenon.
Nielsen falls loosely between the first and second camps. The firm's Cross Platform Report
found 114.5 million TV subscribers in the last quarter of 2011. This represents 1.6 million less, or 1.4 percent fewer, subscribers from the year prior. Wired cable saw the biggest drop, down 2.9 million, but some of that loss is offset by the 1.1 million additional subscribers to telco providers, which Nielsen defines as a paid TV subscription delivered over fiber optic via a traditional telephone provider.
When looking at cable and satellite households, we see a slight uptick in the number of homes subscribed to broadcast and broadband. In the fourth quarter of 2011, there were 5.12 million such subscribers, an increase from 5.1 million the quarter prior and 4.5 million the year before.
In an increasingly connected world, it's little surprise that the biggest drop was among cable-only (no Internet) plans.
Although we've noticed modest decreases in live viewing, the bulk of time people spend with entertainment on a daily basis is watching live programming.
At four hours and 35 minutes per day (driven largely by the 50-64 and 65-plus age demographic), it's three minutes fewer than the fourth quarter in 2010 and a nine minute-difference from the fourth quarter of 2008. It’s also got a big lead over the next most-popular entertainment option, DVR, which commanded 22 minutes in the last quarter of 2011.
We’ve written about the cord-cutting trend
before. As TV moves from a linear experience to a more mobile, multi-screen media, expect more people to access TV content over the Internet in the coming years.