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Why People Still Pay for Cable

With all of the streaming services out there, why are people still paying for cable TV? Live sports and comfort are the big reasons.

We at wanted to know why people are still holding onto their cable subscriptions despite the popularity of streaming services.

We surveyed 1,000 people with cable across the United States, and our findings were interesting. Around a quarter (27%) of those folks owed their allegiance to cable to live sports, and another quarter (26%) prioritized comfort, emphasizing that cable is what they’re used to. The comfort angle tracks: Around 70% of respondents have had cable for more than five years.

Even as predictions abound concerning the eventual death of cable, there are plenty legitimate reasons why, like it or not, cable TV is sticking around.

Why do people pay for cable?

The main reason people pay for cable is to watch live sports, followed closely by comfort. Most people are used to cable, and to many, it’s simpler to stick with what you know.

People have cable to watch sports and because it's comfortable
  • 27% watch live sports
  • 26% cable is what they’re most comfortable with
  • 12% cable is easier to use
  • 11% watch the news
  • 11% watch entertainment
  • 6% cable is more cost-effective
  • 2% watch political content

Most people with cable TV have had it for a long time

Most people with cable figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The vast majority of respondents have had cable for more than five years, with just a minuscule 4% saying they’ve had it for less than a year. What can we say? Humans are creatures of habit.

  • 70% more than 5 years
  • 26% between 1–5 years
  • 4% less than 1 year

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Do people with cable TV pay for streaming too?

Most of the people who’ve held onto cable can’t help but be pulled into the allure of all the shiny (sorta)-new streaming services the world has to offer. A whopping 82% of people who pay for cable TV also pay for at least one streaming service. Guess cable isn’t sufficient for Netflix and chilling.

The most popular streaming services for people with cable TV are:

  • Netflix 76%
  • Hulu 46%
  • Amazon Prime 45%
  • Disney+ 42%
  • Max 28%
  • Paramount+ 27%
  • Peacock 23%
  • Youtube TV 16%
  • Apple TV+ 16%
  • ESPN+ 15%

Is cable TV worth it?

Most people who have cable TV (61%) think that it’s worth it. Even with all the great streaming services out there, cable is still certainly a good option for some. Higher channel counts and better video quality are two big pluses in cable TV’s court. And if you can’t get fast internet speeds where you live, you’re better off sticking with cable than suffering with constant buffering while streaming.

Most people who have cable TV bundle it with other services, which could also make it an effective option.

  • 50% bundle their TV and internet
  • 16% bundle their TV, internet, and mobile
  • 3% bundle their TV and mobile
  • 30% don’t bundle their cable with anything

How long will cable TV exist?

Asking when people will stop paying for cable is a tough question, but the short answer is: not anytime soon. Even with more and more folks subscribing to streaming services, the majority of people with cable don’t see themselves getting rid of it in the foreseeable future. In fact, only 19% of cable subscribers say they won’t have it for more than a year.

  • 33% say they’ll have cable for the next few years
  • 30% don’t see themselves getting rid of cable
  • 18% say they’ll have cable for a year

What would make these loyal cable users cancel their service? Overwhelmingly, we learned, it would be an increase in the cost of their plan.

  • 49% would cancel their cable because of a price increase
  • 20% would cancel if they lost interest in what they use cable to watch
  • 17% would cancel if other options became more affordable
  • 10% would cancel if channel offering drastically changed

Is cable TV more important during an election year?

Over half (52%) of people surveyed think that having cable TV is more important during a presidential election year (which 2024 is.) It’s true: many presidential debates are held on cable TV channels like CNN and Fox News (although there are ways to watch these news channels without paying for a cable subscription.)

Cord cutting stats:

Do cord cutters ever go back to cable? It seems like many do.

  • 28% of people who currently have cable have tried getting rid of cable in the past
  • 53% of people who cut the cord went without cable for over a year before getting it again

Why do people cut the cord?

Cutting the cord boils down to one thing: money. The majority of respondents centered on the price of cable as the deciding factor for them cutting the cord.

Our research shows that, even with pricier live TV streaming services like YouTube TV closing the gap, streaming still has the edge over cable price-wise.

  • 73% of people got rid of cable because it was too expensive
  • 20% of people got rid of cable because they no longer needed it to watch what they were interested in
  • 5% of people got rid of cable because it was too hard to use

What do cord cutters use instead of cable?

So, you’ve cut the cord. How do you get your entertainment fix now? This is how our respondents answered:

  • 65% use on-demand streaming services (e.g., Netflix)
  • 42% use FAST streaming services (e.g., Tubi)
  • 40% use live TV streaming services (e.g., Fubo)
  • 26% use a digital antenna
  • 4% didn’t replace cable with anything

Why do cord cutters go back to cable?

The main reason cord cutters return to a cable subscription is the same reason why people pay for cable to begin with: live sports.

  • 36% of cord cutters went back to cable to watch live sports
  • 13% of cord cutters went back to cable to watch the news
  • 13% of cord cutters went back to cable to watch entertainment events

Why you should trust us

We surveyed 1,000 people using Pollfish on Feb. 6, 2024. In order to participate in the survey, respondents had to answer yes to both having cable TV in their household and being a primary decision maker in their household. The results were post-stratified to accurately reflect the population.

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