Nearly A Million Americans Have Ditched Cable for Online TV tvtv 300x199 It's fun to speculate about the shift from television viewing to Internet.  When will it happen?  How long before there are more people watching online than on television?  There's typically a lot of speculation in articles like these.  Heck, I'm guilty of it myself on more than one occasion.

But today we have some actual hard data to look at, thanks to the fine folks at The Convergence Consulting Group, LTD.  The Convergence Consulting Group, formed in 1996, provides strategy consulting for cable, satellite, telco, and online companies.  They have released the results of a new study that finally shed some light on this much-predicted shift from TV viewing to online viewing.

The biggest number—the one that's going to get all the headlines and attention—is the one about cord-cutters.  Cord cutters are people who abandoned their cable television service completely in favor of online viewing, and in 2009 there were 800,000 of them.

Now, when you stack 800,000 up against the 300,000,000 Americans… it's a pretty small number.

But when you take it on its own, considering how entrenched with cable television we have been historically as a society, well… 800,000 looks like a ton of people.  Think about just the people you know in your own life.  How many of your own friends have completely ditched cable service in favor of online viewing?  Maybe one?  And that's a big maybe.  In fact, the people who are doing this are still considered pioneers—I saw a blog just the other day dedicated to charting the author's life without cable as he tries to use the Internet to find all his favorite shows.

The fact is that we're very near a tipping point of sorts.  I keep writing about online viewership for major sporting events like The Masters or the March Madness tournament solely because there is a shift going on, even if it hasn't impacted your daily routine yet.

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You can get darn near any show you're looking for online—except for AMC's fine dramas Mad Men and Breaking Bad, which I only mention because I missed Sunday's Breaking Bad and went looking for it online.  But between Hulu and Fancast and YouTube and the individual networks' sites, nearly 90% or more of what I watch on television can be found online.  And while I'm one of the people banging the drum for the move to online viewing, even I'm surprised that 800,000 people have cut out cable altogether.  Maybe the trend is moving faster than I thought it was.  The Convergence report even predicts a huge increase in cord-cutters for 2010, from 800,000 this year to 1.6 million.

Not all the data shows a mass exodus to online viewing.  New cable subscriptions actually went up from 1.46 million in 2008 to over 2 million in 2009 (with Verizon and AT&T making strong gains).  So even while online viewing steals consumers away from cable, cable is able to replace them with new subscribers at a rate of more than 2-to-1.

What about you?  Have you cut the cord?  Are you even remotely interested in leaving cable behind in favor of online viewing?  I'm interested in hearing where the rest of you land on this issue.  The change has been slow in coming for me personally, but I'm giving serious though to leaving behind the broadband (not to mention the monthly fee that comes with it).  Knowing I have the company of 800,000 others gives me the feeling that I'll be just fine without cable.

  • pgriffen

    Dumped Dish 4 weeks ago after they couldn't provide a better cost structure for the basic service. When told I'd have to pay $200 to be able to nix basic (since most of it is half commercials anyway), I told them it was the last straw. My $60/month habit was over. They said they'd charge me $15 for shipping their receiver back. I said fine. They only wanted the remotes and the receiver, not the dish or the I removed the dish and mounted a digital HD over the air antenna on the old dish mast, connected my Roku player to my 5ghz wireless network, pay AT&T $15 for the next 12 months for 3mbs down and have cut my entertainment costs from $60/ month to $16/month (cost of Netfilx and Hulu Plus). Though initially my motivation was cost driven, like the others here I find I am watching less as well.

    I now have two friends starting to move along similar lines, except they were with Comcast and they were spending upward of $100 for their cable alone (and not getting much more than I was with Dish). Their savings were even greater than mine. The thing that pushed them over the top was when they came over and found they could see their favorite shows via Hulu Plus and/or over the air digital. Though the operators may still be making profit on providing Internet connectivity, it's nowhere near the cash cow they were collecting for their TV service.

    There is life after cable, and it's not bad at all. Cut the cord, you'll be glad you did!

  • Prometheus

    I've been without cable (online only) for two years now and would never go back. It's not just the money savings but, more importantly, it makes us more choosy about how were spending our time. We've found we watch a lot less TV and get a lot more done (like another graduate degree).

  • Marcoleavitt

    For me it wasn't so much a case of cord cutting, as it was simply not renewing a product that just didn't interest me anymore. There is so much richer and varied content online that is available 24-7. For me, it's ridiculous to be confined to the airing schedule of cable, which really seems like last century technology. Why not simply stream all that stuff and air whatever commercials are needed to keep it viable? Cable just doesn't make any sense. I'm amazed that anyone bothers with it anymore.

  • renji

    we've cut our tv for at least a year now. as far as shows goes, it's only a matter of time before prices will drop for cable because of various forms of entertainment for today's digital age. Ipod, Ipad, Vue, Viewsonic, Sony's e-reader etc. I'm able to watch live tv through my verizon wireless cell when I'm work and taking a break to catch up with news locally and around the world.

  • SueF

    At our house, the cord is definitely cut. The TV is gone and is gone for good. On top of that I almost left Fancast in the lurch when they locked off all of the Comcast content. So with all of this, why do I now watch more TV than I ever have? All of my shows are online. They come and go, they aren't always there. But the benefit is, I can watch them on my schedule, not a schedule divined by a broadcasting company. In short, I have a life again, I still have my TV, I still have my favorite shows, I still see the new shows I want to see. Even the commercials are still there. TV is personal now, I can watch what I want, when I want. I rather like being able to be outside during the daylight hours and not having to pay for cable!

  • vender

    I've been without cable or an antenna for 2-3 years now. Hulu has helped simplify things since I no longer need to go to individual network sites for the shows I watch. I think the major thing that keeps people from dropping cable or over-the-air TV is that there is no graceful interface for accessing all the online media and there may not be for a long, long time since that would require cooperation between competitors and content providers to put TV and web stuff one basket - they seem to prefer them to be separate.

    Yes, there are media center PCs running Windows Media Center, XMBC, Boxee, Hulu desktop, etc, but none of these (in my experience) have:
    1. the ease of use that a TV or DVR have for a non-techie person
    2. a default set up that only requires plugging things into the right connections and turning a box or TV on (I know that many HTPCs can be tweaked to do this or be close to this, but that is beyond many non-technical people).

    People are intimidated by the idea of hooking up a computer to their TV and don't like the user experience of a mouse, keyboard, and the complicated set up in comparison to their TV, DVR, or DVD/Blueray player.

  • Colby

    I shut off cable about 6 months ago and I've been watching hulu instead. I'm saving about a hundred bucks a month and I don't really miss it. Plus I feel much more productive without the TV.

  • buzztok

    I would consider cutting cable if I could get live news in a video format.

    • testtubebaby

      The very nature of the news is delivered to you "after that fact". Live news tells you what happened yesterday pretty much, MAYBE something that happened earlier today... rarely is there any "live" news happening, how often is your infomercial feed broken into to report honestly? ... Your local station will surly have breaking news online, and will tweet the latest happenings before the 6 o'clock news, and a facebook, etc, etc, etc... cut the cord already, you are paying to have constant access to

  • hershelmiller

    It's funny, I was in an Executive Education class years ago and a Marketing manager from one of the Telco's was there talking about cell phone Cord Cutters. I was one of them at that time and I said I was not going back, she didn't want to believe me.

    That said I'm not actually a cord cutter. I haven't had cable in years, why, because I've been waiting for this convergence.

  • Jeremy Campbell

    I would cut my cable if I lived in the US where I could access Hulu, Fox, and other geo location blocked video websites. Either way I expect to be a cord cutter by next year regardless. Let the cord cutting movement continue!

  • TV Sucks

    Because cable tv SUCKS. Why should anyone pay $50-$100 a month for the pleasure of being screamed at by sham wow? WTF. bu bye. Greed killed TV. when ABC is running infomercials at 11:30 in the morning, that was it for me.