It must be a depressing time to be a cable company executive. Sure, having those golden parachutes and stock options are nice for peace of mind, but the writing on the wall has been clear for some time: cable’s days are numbered. The biggest names in streaming video have been gaining subscribers at a much faster rate than cable, and show no signs of stopping. Now, recent data show that Amazon Prime memberships are on pace to outnumber cable subscriptions in the next year. Can cable be saved? Should cable be saved?
The data was gathered by Morningstar Inc., an investment research firm which collects statistics on various market trends. By analyzing Amazon’s cash flow statements, Morningstar estimated that close to 79 million households currently have an Amazon Prime membership, compared to 66 million in 2016. 90 million households currently pay for a cable or satellite membership, and that number is falling as more and more households cut the cord. However, Amazon doesn’t release official numbers on how many Prime subscribers it has, so these figures are only estimates; other estimates put the figure as high as 85 million.
However, Recode, who published the data, notes that it’s important to point out that these data don’t necessarily mean Amazon Video is gaining ground on cable per se; many Prime members join the subscription service for the online retail perks rather than the streaming video service it provides. Still, if these data show anything, it’s that cable is declining, whether or not Amazon Prime Video specifically is a major instigator of the trend. Given that Amazon Prime’s biggest competitor, Netflix, has more subscribers than Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube combined and that millennials overwhelmingly prefer streaming over cable, however, it’s clear that the future will be cable-free.