After a quarter in which another million customers cut the cord on cable or satellite TV, the research firm eMarketer expects a 4% drop in pay-TV subscribers this year, bringing the total down to 86.5 million. The firm also expects customers to defect at a faster rate of 7.5% next year, with subscriptions dropping to 80 million. By 2023, eMarketer predicts that pay-TV households will drop to 72.7 million, versus 56.1 million households that will have cut the cord.
Cable companies aren’t really sweating it, though. Instead of extending promo deals to keep customers from dropping TV service, they’re simply extracting more revenue from those who haven’t formulated an escape plan. Either way, companies like Comcast profit from selling high-margin internet service.
The distant dream of a la carte television has never seemed closer to reality. On Thursday, just a day after HBO said it would launch a new online streaming service that doesn’t require a cable TV subscription, CBS announced the launch of CBS All Access, a service will let users watch unlimited CBS content, including some live television, on multiple devices for just $5.99 a month.
It’s still too early to proclaim the death of the traditional cable TV bundle. And yet, the two announcements signal a drastic shift in the way both cable companies and networks—so often adversaries of internet TV services like Netflix and Aereo—now view the changing television landscape. Tech savvy consumers and cord cutters have been urging these companies to unhinge themselves from the traditional cable package for years. But now that they are, the question is: are consumers really ready for it?