Cutting the cable cord: is it time?

October 3, 2008

Some weeks ago, Nick Wingfield at the Wall Street Journal and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Nick: So are people ready to cut the cable cord yet?

[note from me: “cutting the cord” does not refer to childbirth, sorry; it’s a play on what has happened to the phone business as so many people — nearly 10% have gone cell-phone only in the past decade]

Me: No. We don’t see it in our data, in fact, we don’t really measure it that much because the numbers are so small.

Nick: Hmmm. [silence]

This silence made me uneasy. It’s a good question and it’s one I wanted to have an answer for. I told Nick that we would probably start tackling this in earnest in early 2009 because by then it would be measurable via surveys. 

Then something funny happened. In a series of in-depth interviews I did with people who watch more than an hour of online video a week (the average is 56 minutes a week), these participants volunteered to me that they had recently abandoned cable.

The range was surprising:

– A 24-year old employee by day and student by night. He and his young wife can’t afford cable on their tight budget. By buying a few iTunes episodes each month, streaming a bunch for free on CBS.com, ABC.com, and Hulu.com, and by having a Netflix subscription (and an Xbox 360 through which Netflix streaming can occur), they get all their video needs satisfied for half the price of their prior cable bill.

– A 37-year old homemaker with three kids who has never had cable before because it was costly (and because most if it was inappropriate for her children – I need to comment on that in a later post), is now happy that she will never need cable.

And then this: Nick’s article in today’s WSJ about cable cord-cutting. I’m not surprised he found the examples he did. I found mine without hardly looking. Looks like our next survey is going to have to dive deep into this!

Exciting times ahead, eh, cable companies?

Advertisements