Cutting The Cord, Really

Americans really are cutting the cord. Unpublished results of the 2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey, analyzed by Demo Memo, show a substantial drop in spending on cable and satellite television service, writes Cheryl Russell in her Demo Memo blog at a sampling of posts published in the past few weeks at 

The $638 spent by the average household on cable service in 2017 was 18% below the 2016 level, after adjusting for inflation, says the report. Cable has now relinquished its position as the number-one entertainment item on which the average household spends the most. Spending on pets surpassed cable spending in 2017.  

Behind the decline in spending is the shrinking percentage of households purchasing service. Just 58% of households spent on cable/satellite service in the average quarter of 2017, 10 percentage age points below the 68% of 2016 and 16% percentage points below the all-time high of 74% in 2010. The decline in the share of households spending on cable/satellite service is occurring in every age group, with the biggest drop among younger adults...
Percentage of households spending on cable/satellite service during an average quarter of 2017 (and percentage-point change since 2010)

  • Under age 25: 23.0%  (-26)
  • Aged 25 to 34: 41.9% (-26)
  • Aged 35 to 44: 53.5% (-22)
  • Aged 45 to 54: 62.2% (-15)
  • Aged 55 to 64: 65.6% (-12)
  • Aged 65-plus: 69.9% (-9)

On an average day, says the report, 79% of Americans aged 15 or older watch television as a primary activity, meaning their main activity at the time. The percentage who watch television is lowest among 15-to-19-year-olds (73%) and highest among people aged 65 or older (89%). These facts come from a Bureau of Labor Statistics' analysis of the American Time Use Survey

The time use survey collects additional detail about the activities in which people engage on an average day records time of day, for example, and whether respondents are alone or with others. The following chart shows the percentage of Americans aged 15 or older who watch television at selected hours of the day...

  • 6% are watching from midnight to 1 am
  • 1% are watching from 3 to 4 am (lowest point)
  • 13% are watching from noon to 1 pm
  • 38% are watching from 6 to 7 pm
  • 59% are watching from 8 to 9 pm (highest point)

For many, watching television is a solitary activity. 48% of television time is spent alone, concludes the report.

For back issues of American Consumers Newsletter, by Cheryl Russell, please visit New Strategist's web site and click on Newsletter. 


2 comments about "Cutting The Cord, Really".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 2, 2018 at 9:35 a.m.

    Jack, the ongoing BLS studies are not known for their accuracy when it comes to TV audience metrics. Typically, they understate the amount of time that an average personj devotes to TV by a considerable degree, perhaps because of the way "watching" is defined or, just as likely, pecause people can't provide these answers as well as program- and time-specific research by Nielsen, MRI, Simmons, etc. For example, this report states that only 58% of U.S. households subscribed to either a cable system or a satellite program distributor in 2017. That number seems rather low and I believe that the real percentage was closer to 70%.

  2. Jack Loechner from Mediapost Communications replied, November 3, 2018 at 3:29 p.m.

    thanks, ED... I'll keep it in mind, J

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