U.S. cable and satellite TV usage drops significantly since 2015

(KRON) – The number of Americans who say they watch television via cable or satellite has dropped significantly from 76% in 2015 to 56% this year. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 71% of U.S. adults who say they do not use cable or satellite services say it’s because they can access the content they want online.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans say the cost of cable and satellite services is too high, and 45% say they do not often watch TV. The survey points out that the drop in cable and satellite subscribers highlights the changing landscape of connectivity and media in an area of “cord-cutting,” particularly as internet streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have grown in popularity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Those who are not currently subscribed to cable or satellite TV – 61% – report that they had done so in the past, while 39% say they have never been subscribers. The survey, when applying these findings to the population as a whole, 27% of U.S. adults are considered “cord cutters” and 17% never had a cable or satellite subscription.

Below is a detailed table showing the decline across the demographic spectrum in cable and satellite TV subscribers since 2015. 

Different trends among age groups 

According to the survey, only about a third of Americans ages 18 to 29 now get TV through cable or satellite, down 31 percentage points from 2015. Fewer than half, 46%, of 30 to 49-year-old’s get TV from cable or satellite, which is down 27 points. 

Among those 50 and older, the decline has been less dramatic: Those ages 50 to 64 saw a 14-point drop since 2015. People 65 and older saw a five-point decline, which the survey explains is not a statistically significant difference. 

New generation 

According to the survey, not only do young adults stand out for not using cable or satellite TV, but they are also much more likely than older groups to have never gotten TV at home via cable or satellite. Some 61% of those ages 18 to 29 who don’t currently receive TV by cable or satellite say they did not do so in the past, compared with around three in ten in older age groups. 

Additionally, 91% of young adult non-subscribers say they don’t subscribe to either cable or satellite TV because they can access the content they want online – a considerably larger share than among older non-subscribers. About half of non-subscribers ages 18 to 29 say a reason they do not have cable or satellite service at home is that they do not often watch television. 

That number compares to a similar share, 47% of non-subscribers ages 30 to 49 and a third of those 50 and older. 

Times are changing 

According to the Pew Research Center, the changes in the media landscape have been unfolding after cable services in the U.S. hit peak market penetration about a decade ago. The move to streaming services has been followed by the rise of mobile connectivity through smartphones, the rise of app-based streaming services, and smart TVs. Industry-targeted research last summer revealed that 55% of U.S. households have two or more streaming services. 

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