Cord-cutters vs. cable users? Today’s live TV viewers aren’t easy to define
August 3, 2023
By: Matt Miller, Sr. Content and Editorial Manager
Today’s TV audiences are often lumped into two independent categories: The traditional linear TV viewers and the streaming-focused cord-cutters and cord-nevers. But, in reality, the modern TV landscape is far more nuanced. New results from a Kantar survey, commissioned by Amazon Ads, of 1,000 U.S. participants shows that today’s viewers are flexible.1 Viewers today are willing to switch between traditional television and streaming services depending on convenience, price, and other factors when it comes to watching live programming.
Of the consumers surveyed, 58% identified as traditional linear cable TV or satellite viewers (MVPD) and 42% as using virtual multichannel video programming distributors (known as vMVPD, or in other words, TV streaming services that aggregate live and on-demand TV through services like Sling TV, Hulu TV, YouTube TV, fuboTV, and PlayStation Vue.2
Viewers of traditional linear TV are more likely to be Gen X and Boomers who have no kids in the house, while vMVPD users are more likely to be Millennials.3 Though these viewers are mostly split between generational lines, the survey shows that audiences are not at all set in their ways, and there is space for brands to connect with these customers to help them find the best viewing options to fit their needs.
Here are three insights from the Kantar survey that can help brands better understand what live TV services US buyers choose:
MVPD and vMVPD viewers are willing to change live TV services
Though viewers are often lumped into two distinct camps of streaming versus traditional linear TV, those surveyed by Kantar reported a willingness to unplug or plug that cord back in depending on price and convenience. Of those surveyed who watch traditional linear TV, 46% said they used cable or satellite because the services were bundled with their internet or phone plans.4
Watching traditional linear TV is a matter of convenience. However, 72% of these traditional cable users would switch to a live TV streaming service if it were easy and beneficial to do so.5 Some challenges preventing traditional cable users from switching to a live TV streaming service are that it is a “hassle” and that the offerings of these services are “unclear,” respondents said. On the other hand, those who use vMVPD services reported preferring the affordability and flexibility of streaming live TV. Most of these users cut the cord more than two years ago and have only been using their current provider for less than one year.6 A majority, 65% of vMVPD users, would be open to switching to a standard cable or satellite service.7 Both traditional linear TV and vMVPD users responded that bundling television service with other services and saving money were the main motivators when choosing viewing options.
Viewers of both traditional linear TV and vMVPD services reported being not loyal to their current provider.8 They would be willing to switch between services, and even cut or plug in the cord, if a provider offered a cost-effective, convenient, and flexible option.9 Service providers may want to consider prioritizing this messaging when educating customers and connecting through advertising.
Most live streaming TV users have tried or considered multiple services
The streaming arena has a lot of options for consumers. And those users who are using vMVPD services are aware of, and have considered, a number of different options when it comes to viewing live streaming TV. The vMVPD users surveyed all reported high awareness and consideration of a variety of services. Most vMVPD users have also tried multiple services.11 Even some traditional linear TV viewers have tried some live streaming services in the past.12 These traditional linear TV viewers have considered an average of 1.8 services, while vMVPD users considered an average 2.5 services.13
Overwhelmingly, these users start with a free trial rather than buying the full subscription right away.14 However, even though vMVPD users have tried and considered multiple options, traditional linear TV viewers pay more for their services.15 According to the survey, traditional linear TV viewers pay an average $130 per month for cable and streaming services, while vMVPD users pay an average of $101 per month for cable and streaming services.16 With that in mind, providers may want to consider connecting with users who are willing to try new brands and educate them on the price of their services.
Viewers engage with advertising when connected elsewhere
Whether listening to music or podcasts or shopping and researching what to watch, many TV viewers are plugged in elsewhere. According to the Kantar survey, more than half of all TV viewers surveyed research on IMDb before deciding what to watch.17 Those users on vMVPD services are more likely to listen to Amazon Music and Audible than traditional linear TV viewers. Sixty percent of vMVPD and 44% of traditional linear TV users listen to podcasts at least 1-3 times per week.18 Of all respondents to the survey, 30% reported that they recall seeing ads for live TV services across Amazon offerings. Brands may want to consider using audio ads to reach customers listening to Amazon Music’s free ad-supported tier or Streaming TV and online video ads, which engage audiences across Amazon-affiliated sites like IMDb.com and Fire TV.
The streaming TV landscape is constantly evolving. And viewers’ habits are flexible and subject to change depending on the types of services provided. It’s important for brands to remember that viewers are often looking for a better deal—and with the right information, finding the perfect service could be as simple as changing the channel.
What is MVPD?
MVPD stands for "Multichannel Video Programming Distributor," and it refers to a type of video service provider that delivers multiple television channels to subscribers using various distribution technologies. These providers, commonly known as cable operators, satellite companies, or telecommunications firms, offer bundled packages of TV channels to their customers.
What is vMVPD?
vMVPD stands for "Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor," which is a streaming service that offers a package of multiple television channels over the internet, typically without the need for a traditional cable or satellite subscription. Users can access vMVPD services on various devices, such as smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and streaming media players, providing a flexible and more affordable alternative to traditional MVPDs.
What is the difference between MVPD and vMVPD?
The main difference between MVPD and vMVPD lies in their content delivery methods. MVPD, which stands for "Multichannel Video Programming Distributor," delivers television channels through traditional means like cable, satellite, or fiber-optic networks. On the other hand, vMVPD, or "Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor," streams TV channels over the internet, offering a more flexible and on-demand viewing experience without requiring a physical cable or satellite subscription.
What is OTT (over-the-top)?
OTT stands for over-the-top. Also called streaming TV, OTT refers to any type of streaming media content delivered over the Internet. It includes subscription-based streaming services where consumers can access content on-demand without having to go through a traditional satellite or cable provider. Viewers can watch OTT content across a range of devices such as mobile phones, gaming consoles, and tablets, but the majority of viewing occurs on connected TVs (CTV).
What is linear TV?
Linear TV refers to the traditional mode of television broadcasting where scheduled programs are delivered to viewers in real-time through a fixed channel lineup. Unlike on-demand services or streaming platforms, linear TV follows a pre-set programming schedule, and viewers have limited control over the content they watch at any given moment. It relies on cable, satellite, or terrestrial broadcasting methods, offering a curated selection of channels and shows to audiences, but with the rise of digital streaming, linear TV has faced increasing competition from more flexible and personalized viewing options.
1-18 Kantar and Amazon Ads Understanding cable, satellite, and streaming behavior in the United States, May 2021