TV Cord-Cutting Accelerating at Much Faster Pace Than Predicted

Illustration by: Paweł Jońca

In 2015, there were 205.4 million traditional pay television subscribers in the U.S., but by 2022, the number will have fallen to just 169.7 million, according to a new study.

The projection for the number of Americans who are cutting the cord on their cable, telco and satellite TV services is growing, according to a report from eMarketer released on Tuesday.

The research firm says that by the end of this year the number of adults who have canceled their traditional TV service and continue without one will reach 33 million, while last year the firm had forecast a far more mild but still alarming 27.1 million.

On a percentage basis, 32.8 percent of American adults will have ditched their cable and satellite TV services by the end of this year, overwhelmingly in order to embrace over-the-top streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Netflix, or a combination of two or more of them.

Projections for future years are also ominous for the traditional distributors of television, like DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast and Charter, though all are fighting back with partnerships and/or by offering their own streaming and skinny bundles of TV channels.

According to eMarketer, the number of cord-cutters will have grown to 39.3 million by the end of 2019, 45 million a year after that, 50.2 million a year after that, and in 2022, a dramatic 55.1 million will have cut their cords.

In 2015, there were 205.4 million traditional pay TV subscribers in the U.S., but by 2022 the number will have fallen to 169.7 million.

Overall, 186.7 million adults will have paid to watch a traditional service in 2018, which is down 3.4 percent from the year prior. Satellite is losing the most subscribers, followed by the much smaller telco services, while the larger cable providers are holding up a little better.

"Most of the major traditional TV providers now have some way to integrate with Netflix," said eMarketer senior forecasting analyst Christopher Bendtsen. "These partnerships are still in the early stages, so we don't foresee them having a significant impact reducing churn this year. With more pay TV and OTT partnerships expected in the future, combined with other strategies, providers could actually slow — but not stop — the losses."

Meanwhile, the streaming service attracting the largest number of American viewers is still YouTube at 192 million in 2018, followed by Netflix (147.5 million), Amazon (88.7 million), Hulu (55 million), HBO Now (17.1 million) and Sling TV (6.8 million).