Skip to content

Pay TV Subscriptions Have Dropped to the Lowest Levels in 30 Years – What Does This Mean for the Future of Streaming?

If you‘re like me, you probably ditched your bloated, overpriced cable TV bundle long ago and made the switch to streaming. Well, it turns out we‘re far from alone. New data reveals that traditional pay TV subscriptions have dropped to their lowest levels in 30 years!

In this post, we‘ll dive deep into the cord-cutting explosion:

  • Why consumers are fleeing cable in droves
  • The rise of live TV and on-demand streaming alternatives
  • What it all means for the future of how we watch television
  • Tips for seamlessly making the transition yourself

Grab some popcorn and let‘s get to it!

The Steady Decline of Cable TV

Cable and satellite TV providers have been suffering subscriber losses for over a decade now. But the pace of decline has accelerated sharply in the last few years.

According to media analyst MoffettNathanson, pay TV providers lost a whopping 655,000 subscribers in Q3 2022. That brings the total percentage of U.S. households with traditional pay TV down to just 61% – the lowest figure recorded since 1993.

Chart showing the decline in pay TV households from over 90% to 61%

Wow! No wonder Wall Street is freaking out over this milestone. But why exactly are so many consumers cutting the cord?

The Motivations For Cord-Cutting

Here are the main factors driving people away from cable bundles:

  • Cost savings – The average cable bill now costs over $100/month. Streaming delivers popular content for a fraction of the price.
  • Flexibility – Streaming offers on-demand access and the ability to cancel anytime. No more contracts or rental fees.
  • Ad-free options – Many streaming services offer commercial-free viewing experiences.
  • Mobile access – Streaming allows you to watch shows on all your devices, on your own schedule.
  • Personalization – Consumers, especially younger generations, enjoy curating their own media mix.

Additionally, technological advancements have enabled this shift. Smart TVs, streaming sticks, on-demand services, and reliable internet bandwidth make cutting the cord easier than ever.

The Explosive Growth of Live TV Streaming

While cable TV subscriptions are dropping rapidly, a new group of services is gaining millions of converts – live TV streaming.

Streaming-based alternatives like YouTube TV, Hulu Live, fuboTV and Sling TV added over 1.2 million customers last quarter alone. These services let you stream all the popular live channels you‘re used to for $50-70 per month.

Many also offer unlimited DVR, sports networks, and the ability to have multiple streams going. This means you can ditch your set-top box but keep that “real TV” viewing experience.

Chart showing the rapid increase in live TV streaming service subscribers

This category didn‘t even exist a few years ago, so the growth is truly explosive. While limitations around certain sports rights exist, expect the space to attract even more cable defectors going forward.

That said, on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video are still critical to many cord-cutters. This speaks to the desire for more control over content rather than just endlessly flipping channels.

Seismic Shifts for the TV Industry

Make no mistake, the decline in traditional TV subscribers spells huge challenges for entertainment industry business models. With less revenue from cable bundles, networks have to fight harder for consumer attention and dollars.

This is driving a massive shift in corporate strategy. Every media company is aggressively investing in their own streaming services. We now have standalone options like ESPN+, Discovery+, Paramount+, and so on.

Content creators also have to pivot. Successful shows will be those that resonate directly with audiences, rather than shows that simply fill out a programming grid.

At the same time, the fragmentation provides opportunities. We may soon see smaller, more focused “microbundles” and a la carte models. Ad-supported video-on-demand will also become more prominent.

While the change is painful for incumbent players, the ultimate beneficiaries are us – the viewers! We get to enjoy the golden age of quality streaming content, delivered how and when we want it.

Cutting the Cord? How to Navigate the Shift

If you’re considering leaving cable behind, here are my top tips to make the transition smooth sailing:

  • Get an OTA antenna – This allows you to watch local broadcast channels like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox for free. Antennas start at around $30.

  • Audit what you watch – Track the shows, networks, and sports you care most about so you can find suitable replacements.

  • Research streaming service options – Compare lineups, prices, and DVR functionality to cable packages to find the best fit. Hulu Live, YouTube TV or DirecTV Stream are good one-stop options.

  • Use free trials – Test out services like fuboTV and Philo with their free trial periods before committing.

  • Consider supplementing – Plug gaps with FAST channels like Pluto TV or free ad-supported services like Peacock and Freevee.

  • Get the right devices – Streaming sticks and smart TVs make it easy to access all your content in one place.

  • Check your internet speeds – You‘ll need at least 25 Mbps download for streaming, so contact providers about speed upgrades if needed.

  • Keep only what you need – Ditch underutilized premium channels to maximize savings. Add them back if you miss them.

The Future is Yours to Stream!

The days of cable TV dominating the living room are clearly numbered. But with the right mix of streaming TV and video services, you can craft an experience that gives you way more control and value.

The holidays are a perfect time to make the switch. Be sure to let the cable company know the reason you‘re leaving too! Then get ready to enter the new golden age of streaming TV.

What questions do you have about cutting the cord? Have you already cancelled cable? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! I read every reply.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.