With coronavirus shutting down the sports events that are the key driver of pay-TV subscriptions, cable operators are nervously watching viewership drop for all kinds of cable sports channels.
But it makes intuitive sense that a delay in the start of the NFL season would constitute a crisis on another level. After all, in 2018, 80% of the top-viewed sporting events were NFL games.
Now, a survey of 1,003 current U.S. cable TV subscribers lends support to the assumption that a delay in NFL coverage would accelerate cord-cutting.
The survey — conducted by Mindnet Analytics for the website KilltheCableBill.com (methodology below) — found 66% of cable subscribers saying that live sports are a “significant” reason for their subscribing. That includes 33% who consider it a “very” significant factor and 33% who consider it “somewhat” significant,
Just over 44% said the current lack of major live sports could impact whether they keep their cable subscription, with 30% citing “somewhat” of an impact, and 14% citing a “big” impact.
And asked specifically how likely they are to cancel cable if the NFL season is postponed, 33% described it as “likely,” including 17.5% calling it “somewhat” likely and 15.4% calling it “very” likely.
The subscribers also indicated that the damage could mount the longer the live sports blackout continues.
About 29% said they were “somewhat” (18.8%) or “very” (9.8%) likely to cancel cable if no major live sports events are televised by May 1, and the percentage rose to 32% if the blackout were to last until June 1 (with 19.2% “somewhat” and 12.6% “very” likely to cancel).
Mindnet conducted the survey through Amazon Mechanical Turk. The results analysis includes only respondents who had expressed approval ratings for cable TV of 95% or higher in the past, and exclude the fastest 5% of sample respondents, to ensure data quality. Participants were compensated at a rate equivalent to at least $15 per hour. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3%.