US Pay TV Penetration Drops to 83%

According to the Leichtman Research Group, about 83% of all households nationwide subscribe to some form of pay TV service. The ...

Broadband growth slowing, cable still leads
Broadband growth slowing, cable still leads
According to the Leichtman Research Group, about 83% of all households nationwide subscribe to some form of pay TV service. The percentage of households that subscribe to a pay TV service is down from 87% in 2010, but up from 81% in 2005. The research house says the decline in penetration over time is not solely caused by cord cutting.

While the total number of subscribers for the top pay TV providers at the end of 2Q 2015 is similar to the total at the end of 2Q 2010, over the past five years, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that occupied housing in the United States increased by more than 4.5 million units (with all the growth coming in renter-occupied housing). As a result, penetration of pay TV in residential households has decreased from five years ago.

Among TV households that do not currently subscribe to a pay TV service, 17% paid for a service in the past year, while 70% of non-subscribers either last subscribed more than three years ago or have never subscribed to a pay TV service. Overall, about 2.5% of TV households paid to subscribe to a service in the past year but currently do not, compared to 1.5% in 2010 and 2.3% in 2005.

Other findings indicate:

  • In households using a TV, 12% of homeowners do not subscribe to a pay TV service, compared to 23% of renters. (Renters are more likely to be non-subscribers than in any year since 2006.)
  • 21% of those who moved in the past year do not currently subscribe to a pay TV service, compared to 12% in 2010.
  • 35% using one TV set at home are non-subscribers, compared 10% using two or more TVs.
  • Mean reported monthly spending on pay TV service is $99.10, an increase of 39% since 2010.
  • 63% of non-subscribers get a subscription VOD (SVOD) service, and 62% have an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna.
  • In total, 5% of all households are pay TV non-subscribers with both an SVOD service and an OTA antenna, while 4% of all households are pay TV non-subscribers with SVOD but no OTA antenna.

"Changes in the dynamics of the pay TV industry are not driven just by those exiting the category, but also those coming into the category," wrote Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG. "Historically, consumers have gone in and out of the pay TV category, primarily for economic reasons. While the rate of those leaving is actually similar to a decade ago, those who are entering or reentering the market has decreased over time, and the industry is not keeping pace with rental housing growth."

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