Why People Still Pay for Cable in 2022

Almost half of the cable TV subscribers we surveyed cut the cord but returned to cable—because they didn’t understand streaming.

Hand holding a remote control and watching sports on a flat screen TV

We wanted to know why 500 American cable TV subscribers still pay for cable TV instead of cutting the cord. Nearly half (46%) said they had cut the cord, and just over half of that group (53%) returned to cable after less than a year.

Streaming TV is simpler and more affordable than cable TV, so we wanted to know why those respondents returned to cable TV (and its hassles)—and why the other 54% of them never left. We uncovered an unexpected result: people still pay for cable because they don’t seem to understand the differences between cable TV, on-demand streaming, and live TV streaming.

Cable apples, streaming oranges

How do we know? To start, some 39% of respondents who’ve never cut cable and 37% of cord-cutters who’ve returned to cable all said they did it to watch live sports, news, and entertainment events (like awards shows).

We also asked, “When you got rid of cable, what streaming service(s) did you use instead?” A shocking 82%* of cord-cutters replaced cable with on-demand streaming services. In other words, they subscribed to the wrong type of streaming service for their live TV needs.

Fun fact: Watching live sports is our respondents’ single biggest reason for keeping (20%) or returning (18%) to cable TV.

There are two types of streaming TV services: on-demand streaming services (like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Netflix) and live TV streaming services (like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and Sling TV). Since only the latter group carries the live channels needed to watch live sports, news, and events, these respondents cut the cord for nothing.

Yikes.

How to stream live events and drop cable TV for good

From our one-time cord-cutters who returned to cable TV, almost 42% switched back to cable because they wanted to watch live events like sports, award shows, news, and political content. But you can catch all that jazz on live TV streaming services.

If the lack of live TV is all that drove you back to cable TV, or has kept you from cutting the cord altogether, it’s time for you to see what the best live TV streaming services can offer you.

Cutting the cord—again

We wish we could ask the same 500 people if they’d consider cutting cable again and trying a live TV streaming service. But, at this point, is it worth doing?

Cable and satellite TV providers like Xfinity and DISH already offer TV streaming through their free mobile apps. These allow subscribers to watch their live channels, DVR recordings, on-demand content, and more while they’re on the go.

And some providers, like Sparklight and Spectrum*, are adopting “streaming cable” models. With these, your packages, pricing, and channel lineups don’t change. What’s different is that you use the TV providers’ mobile app and a compatible device to stream your channels over the internet. And, instead of a physical DVR, you get cloud DVR.

(*Note: Spectrum still offers traditional cable TV service alongside its streaming option.)

Streaming is coming for us all. You probably don’t even need to cut the cord; you can just chill on your couch and let your provider do it for you. But it’s definitely worth cutting the cord, since a live TV streaming service is cheaper and more flexible than cable and “streaming cable.” And you’ll still get to enjoy your live sportsball, news, and entertainment events. 

Full results

What is the main reason that has kept you from getting rid of cable?

Watching live sports on cable 19.50%
Watching live entertainment events on cable (award shows, etc) 11.66%
My internet is too slow for streaming services 10.09%
Watching live news on cable (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, etc) 9.53%
Having multiple streaming service subscriptions is more expensive than cable 8.02%
My internet/telephone provider forces me to subscribe to cable as well 7.10%
DVR access 6.98%
I get cable for free with my internet/telephone provider 6.71%
I don’t want to pay for equipment (Roku, Apple TV, smart TVs) that I would need to use streaming services 6.63%
Cable is easier to use than streaming services 6.43%
Other 4.97%
Watching political content on cable (debates, hearings/trials, etc.) 2.37%

Have you ever cut the cord?

Yes 46.46%
No 53.54%

What was your primary reason for cutting the cord?

Cable was too expensive 31.02%
Other 9.61%
I didn't use cable enough to justify the cost 8.03%
I wasn’t satisfied with the service I was receiving 6.53%
Cable was too difficult to use 5.79%
I stopped watching live news on cable (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, etc) 5.04%
There are no/fewer commercials on streaming services 4.16%
My child/children persuaded me to 3.90%
My parent(s) persuaded me to 3.87%
I stopped watching live entertainment events on cable (award shows, etc) 3.81%
I stopped watching political content on cable (debates, hearings/trials, etc) 3.71%
I moved to a location that didn’t have cable access 3.37%
I didn’t want to be locked into a contract 2.73%
My spouse/partner persuaded me to 2.63%
My friend(s) persuaded me to 2.13%
Other 1.89%
I stopped watching live sports on cable 1.80%

When you cut the cord, how long were you without cable before resuming service?

Less than a year 53.33%

Over a year 46.67%

When you got rid of cable, what streaming service(s) did you use instead?

Most popular

Netflix 8.94%
Hulu 8.56%
Amazon Prime 8.13%
YouTube TV 6.57%
Disney+ 6.34%
Discovery+ 5.67%
Apple TV+ 5.41%
Sling TV 4.53%
BET+ 4.04%
Hulu + Live TV 3.83%
HBO Max (formerly known as HBO Now) 3.69%
ESPN+ 3.61%
Paramount+ 3.57%
AMC+ 3.53%
Peacock 3.50%
Shudder 3.08%
Crunchyroll 3.02%
fuboTV 2.92%
Funimation 2.67%
Other 2.60%
Acorn TV 2.38%
BritBox 2.25%
I didn't replace cable with any streaming services 1.15%

Alphabetical

AMC+ 3.53%
Acorn TV 2.38%
Amazon Prime 8.13%
Apple TV+ 5.41%
BET+ 4.04%
BritBox 2.25%
Crunchyroll 3.02%
Discovery+ 5.67%
Disney+ 6.34%
ESPN+ 3.61%
Funimation 2.67%
fuboTV 2.92%
Hulu 8.56%
Hulu + Live TV 3.83%
HBO Max (formerly known as HBO Now) 3.69%
Netflix 8.94%
Paramount+ 3.57%
Peacock 3.50%
Shudder 3.08%
Sling TV 4.53%
YouTube TV 6.57%
Other 2.60%
I didn't replace cable with any streaming services 1.15%

What is the main reason that you resumed cable TV service?

Watching live sports on cable 18.36%
Other 10.07%
Watching live entertainment events on cable (award shows, etc.) 10.02%
My internet/telephone provider forces me to subscribe to cable as well 9.72%
Having multiple streaming service subscriptions is more expensive than cable 8.47%
Watching live news on cable (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, etc.) 8.23%
My internet is too slow for streaming services 7.99%
Cable is easier to use than streaming services 7.08%
I get cable for free with my internet/telephone provider 6.67%
Watching political content on cable (debates, hearings/trials, etc) 5.38%
DVR access 4.07%
I don’t want to pay for equipment (Roku, Apple TV, smart TVs) that I would need to use streaming services 3.94%
Hulu 8.56%
Hulu + Live TV 3.83%
HBO Max (formerly known as HBO Now) 3.69%
Netflix 8.94%
Paramount+ 3.57%
Peacock 3.50%
Shudder 3.08%
Sling TV 4.53%
YouTube TV 6.57%
Other 2.60%
I didn't replace cable with any streaming services 1.15%

Methodology

We surveyed 500 Americans who currently subscribe to cable to find out why they still subscribe to cable TV services, if they have ever cut the cord, and why they returned to their cable subscription. We then crunched and analyzed the numbers, developing the insights we share with you here. To read more about our process, see our How We Rank page.

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