Pay TV will shrink for first time in history, study says cable watching peaked in 2011

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It’s finally happening. The number of Americans who pay for cable-like TV products is declining, says a research forecast that claims subscriptions peaked at nearly 101 million in 2011 but will decline to less than 95 million by 2017.

The stats come by way of research group TDG which presented the findings in this chart:

Decline in cable

While a five percent decline is hardly earth-shaking, TDG describes the end of cable TV’s growth as a tipping point with “long-term tectonic implications.”

This makes sense. The price of cable bundles is climbing ever higher, at the same time as a bevy of new distribution options is increasing consumer frustration at having to purchase channels they don’t want. Meanwhile, a rising generation of “cord-nevers” thinks buying a cable package to watch one show makes as much sense as buying a CD to hear a single song.

But don’t count out the TV industrial complex just yet. The industry still has the best content goodies, including sports and HBO fare, and will continue forcing consumers to buy bundles to access them. It will also keep dangling cable passwords as a requirement for people to watch content on mobile devices.

Meanwhile, the brave new world of cord-cutting is still not ready for primetime. As my colleague Stacey Higginbotham explained, the online video world still has too many parts and too little accountability — meaning consumers will be stuck with unreliable service for some time to come. The first cable decline is a tipping point, not a revolution.

(Image by lev dolgachov via Shutterstock)

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