Cord Cutting’s Not Real (Unless You’re Under 25)

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A room full of TV execs heard what they wanted to hear this morning at the 2011 TV Summit; Cheryl Idell, EVP of Media Product Leadership at Nielsen, presented numbers that suggest the cord-cutting phenomenon is not for real.

According to Idell, over the last four years, the number of households signing up for cable or cable-like services have shown consistent growth. While, in Idell’s words, “the pie is getting larger,” any subscriber loss is due not to cord cutting but “cord swapping,” where consumers trade their cable subscriptions for satellite or telco options like AT&T’s U-verse. Meanwhile, the increase in broadband-only households from 2010 to 2011 has only grown from 3.6 percent to 4.4 percent of Americans with televisions.

That’s an average, though; when the numbers are broken down across different age demographics, Nielsen found that in households with people 25 years old or younger, 8.5 percent are cable-free, which is almost twice the national average. Idell characterized this statistic as attributable to the fact that younger people consider cable a “luxury item:” one that might be out of their budget right now, but would become an option once they grew older and could afford that extra $100 a month.

Audience familiarity with devices that enable cord cutting is growing, Nielsen has found. While in 2010 there was a two percent decrease in the number of hours of live TV watched, there was a 20 percent increase in console usage. That increase was greatest with women, primarily for the purpose of streaming content. Netflix usage was pinpointed at about 11 hours of viewing a week, with Hulu half that.

Nielsen has been saying for over six months that cord cutting is a myth, but that’s only by assuming that younger audiences will drop their broadband-only ways down the line — which is a big assumption, especially given how cable bills continue to rise.

Strategy Analytics research from last fall found that cord cutters are young, educated and employed — a phenomenon that our own Janko feels will only continue to grow in 2011.

Check out our most recent episode of Cord Cutters below, featuring the guys from iFanboy.


Picture courtesy of Flickr user mikemol.

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