ESPN: Cord Cutting at a Minimum, Nonexistent Among Heavy Sports Viewers

According to a new ESPN study, Just 0.18% of US households “cut the cord” between fourth quarter 2010 and first quarter 2011. The study defines “cord-cutters” as multichannel homes with a high-speed Internet connection that drop their cable/telco/satellite subscriptions, but retain their broadband connection to watch television.  The current rate of 0.18% is less than the 0.28% found in ESPN’s previous analysis of cord-cutting from third to fourth Quarter 2010.

This small amount of cord cutting over the past three months was offset by the 0.18% of broadcast-only households in the Nielsen sample that became subscribers to multichannel TV and broadband over the same period.  This brings the net loss to zero.

While the popular image of a cord cutter is a home with both multichannel and broadband connections, who decide to opt out of the multichannel cord and rely on streaming content from the Internet, the study shows that the majority (71%) of persons in cord-cutting households were non- or light streamers.

In addition, people who were heavy or medium sports viewers showed zero cord cutting.  Heavy and medium sports viewers account for 77% of sports viewing and 87% of viewing to ESPN.

The study showed that the number of multichannel homes adding a broadband connection was over four times as large as the “cord cutter” group.

“We continue to see minuscule amounts of cord cutting among US households,” said Glenn Enoch, vice president of Integrated Media Research, ESPN.  “Rather than disturbing the existing avenues of distribution, the continued growth of broadband penetration and use of online video provides a tremendous opportunity for growth in media consumption across all platforms.”

ESPN Research + Analytics had previously used data from Nielsen, and other research providers to determine that while online video consumption has soared in the past two years, TV viewing has continued to increase.  Previous analysis has also shown that video consumption is not a zero-sum proposition – viewers of online video are actually heavier viewers of TV.

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