Number of Cord Cutting Homes Nearing Number of Pay-TV Subscribers in U.S.

NEW YORK—The gap between pay-TV and cord cutting in the U.S. continues to narrow, and in the next few years it could disappear entirely, according to a new report from eMarketer.

In 2019, eMarketer is estimating that the total number of pay-TV households in the U.S. will drop 4.2% to 86.5 million. On the flip side, the number of cord cutters is expected to grow 19.2%. If the rate of decline holds steady, pay-TV services will fall below 80 million households by 2021, while one-fifth of U.S. homes will have cut the cord. A little further down the road, the report predicts that by 2023 the number of pay-TV households will come in at 72.7 million and that 56.1 million will be without a pay-TV package.

Satellite providers are expected to take the biggest hit in these declines, with an estimated 7.1% of household subscriptions ending this year. Telco and cable are expected to see declines of 4.6% and 2.4%, respectively.

One of the causes for this decline, according to eMarketer, is pay-TV providers prioritizing profit over revenues.

“As programming costs continue to rise, cable, satellite and telco operators are finding it difficult to turn a profit on some TV subscriptions,” said Eric Haggstrom, eMarketer forecasting analyst. “Their answer has been to raise prices across the board, and it seems that they are willing to lose customers rather than retain them with unprofitable deals.”

While the decline of pay-TV services continues in the U.S., other studies find that pay-TV services are still a popular choice of customers in emerging markets around the world.

Additional findings in the eMarketer report include that the time spent watching traditional TV is also in decline. Total TV watching is expected to drop 3% to three hours and 40 minutes on average, with all age groups showing decline, but it is especially heavy among those 17 and under.