Traditional TV Dips to 80% Market Penetration As More People Cut Cable

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Has traditional television reached its peak? A lot of experts think so. And the numbers are starting to back that up.

New numbers from Nielsen how that standard TV is on the decline when it comes to market penetration, while streaming subscriptions are on the rise.

When it comes to what’s called “traditional” television (where viewers watch set channels with a set schedule), viewership in down in all US age brackets since 2010. What’s worrying for big cable is that the largest decline came in the youngest bracket, where viewership in ages 12 to 24 dropped 40%. Traditional TV viewership in all age groups fell by 11%. Today’s youth are growing up with an a la carte TV experience, and that’s bad news for cable.

The scariest numbers for media companies though came in the market penetration outlook. In 2010, pay TV had a 90% market rate. That fell to 80% in 2016 as people either lowered their cable package, abandoned it all together, or never even sign up for it in the fist place. Many cable companies are realizing this decline and offering “skinny bundles” that offer trimmed down options for a lower price. But is it enough?

On the other end, streaming subscription services are stronger that ever. It’s estimated that Netflix’s 94 million subscribers subscribers watch content on the service for an average of two hours every single day. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have a combined budget of $10 billion a year on content.

It’s still projected to be quite some time before traditional television goes away completely. It’s still an incredible lucrative medium, especially for content like live sports. Nielsen estimated that sports programming accounted for more than 90 of the 100 most viewed broadcasts in 2015

But experts say we have indeed reached “peak TV,” meaning we’ll never see traditional, paid television at a higher point than it is now.



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Artie Beaty

Artie Beaty is a freelance writer from North Carolina who follows the world of streaming closely on a daily basis. Contact him at or on Twitter @AboutCharlotte.
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