Skip to main content

Pay TV Penetration Dips to 71% of TV Homes

(Image credit: VAB)

DURHAM, N.H.—New consumer research from the Leichtman Research Group is reporting ongoing drops in pay TV penetration, with only 71% of TV households nationwide having some form of pay-TV service in 2021. 

That marks a significant five year decline from the 82% penetration rate in 2016 and an even bigger 10 year decline from 87% in 2011. 

The declines were even worse among younger demos. In 2021 among TV households, 64% of adults aged 18-44 and 77% of those older than 45 had a pay-TV service; in contrast 77% of adults ages 18-44 and 86% of ages 45+ had a pay-TV service in 2016. 

This has also resulted in a massive change in the way video is delivered into TVs in the home. The Leichtman survey found that 37% of all TV sets in use have a traditional pay-TV providers’ set-top box – compared to 58% in 2016

“The percent of U.S. TV households with a live pay-TV service significantly declined from 82% to 71% over the past five years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.  “The penetration of pay-TV remains lowest among younger adults and the categories that they tend to populate, including movers and renters.” 

The new report also found that:  

  • 41% of those that moved in the past year do not currently have a pay-TV service – a higher level than in previous years.
  • 35% of renters do not have a pay-TV service – compared to 25% of homeowners.
  • 30% of pay-TV non-subscribers last had a pay-TV service within the past 3 years, 36% last had a pay-TV service >3 years ago, and 34% never had a pay-TV service.
  • 54% of pay-TV non-subscribers that never had a service are ages 18-34 – while 28% of non-subscribers that formerly had pay-TV are in that age range.
  • 26% of adults agree that it is OK to use a friend’s log-in passwords to watch live TV, including 40% of ages 18-34.

These findings are part of a new LRG study, “Pay-TV in the U.S. 2021.”  

“Pay-TV in the U.S. 2021” is based on a survey of 2,000 adults aged 18+ from throughout the U.S.  The random sample of respondents was distributed and weighted to best reflect the demographic and geographic make-up of the U.S.  The survey, conducted in September-October 2021, included a sample of about 1,200 online and about 800 via telephone (including landline and cell phone calls).  The overall sample has a statistical margin of error of +/- 2.2%.  The online sample used exclusively for some questions has a statistical margin of error of +/- 2.8%.

More information about the report is available at