Like many other television networks that are – in our opinion justifiably – nervous about losing traditional paying cable subscribers to the Internet, ESPN decided to dig right into the data in order to see for itself what exactly is going on, according to a report by The New York Times.
Using Nielsen’s data, ESPN found that 0.28% of subscribers cut the cord for the Internet in the last quarter, but that was mitigated by 0.17% of households signing up for cable bundles, meaning that only a net of 0.11% of households cut the cord (Nielsen is backing up ESPN’s findings). ESPN also found that among hardcore sports fans that it found virtually no cord cutting at all, due to fact that watch live sports online is an (intentionally) painful process.
Of course, Nielsen’s data isn’t perfect – no data is. The question is, does this data paint the entire picture of cord-cutting? There is cord cutting and then there is changing habits: just because households aren’t quite ready to completely cut the cord, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t increasingly watching video online. Also, the introduction of so many Internet-connected set-top boxes including the Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee Box and Roku this holiday season (not to mention gaming consoles such as the Xbox) are only going to accelerate this trend.
If one of these boxes can really bring the Internet to big screen TVs the way we’re all waiting for (none of them have seemingly got there yet from what we’ve read/seen) and can deal with the content providers in a way that doesn’t cripple them, then that one tenth of one percent number could start getting much larger, much faster.
So while these findings are seemingly great news for cable, we’d still say this: beware the cutting of cords – at least ESPN has ESPN3.com as a fall back, which did pretty well during the World Cup, so they’re probably better off than most.
Note: The NY Times says that ESPN will release its entire findings in a report on Monday.