Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How Six Million Cord-Cutters Disappeared

Last year, a Deloitte survey reported that a staggering 20 percent of Americans had either cut the cord — stopped subscribing to Comcast, Dish, Verizon, etc., in favor of Apple, Netflux, Hulu, etc. — or were thinking about it.

But that was then! This year’s Deloitte survey reports that a mere 8 percent of Americans are cord-cutters, or would like to be.

If you compare the two reports side by side — and don’t look closely at the wording of the questions — you’d conclude that the cord-cutting population had decreased by about 6 percent of TV households, or six million people.

2012:
deloitte cord-cutters

2013:
deloitte TV

What happened? Clearly, people didn’t get more excited about paying for TV in the last year — based on industry reporting, the total number of subscribers remained about flat, just like it has been for the past few years.

The most likely answer is the one that occurred to me in 2012: That the wording in last year’s survey confused respondents, and that many of them thought the question was about dropping a pay TV channel, like HBO — not cutting the cord altogether.

After I wrote about last year’s numbers, I ended up on the phone with a Deloitte executive who had overseen the research. We went back and forth a little bit, and he allowed that polls like this — and poll questions — are a work in progress.

And this year’s report looks like a tacit acknowledgement of that. Deloitte made the effort to tweak the question, but it looks like it didn’t feel strongly enough about the data to include it in the main “State of Media Democracy” report (though it did furnish it to me upon request, which I appreciate). Perhaps next year it will include it, and show change over time.

Until then, hard to use these numbers to draw a conclusion about cord-cutting, one way or another. Not that it will stop you folks from sounding off in the comments. Have at it!


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work