Analyst: Potential Cord Cutters See The Pay TV Light


In what will likely spread like wildfire throughout the marketing departments of cable, satellite TV and telco TV distributors nationwide, a focus group report conducted by Sanford Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger shows what they have suspected all along –  when faced with the reality of severing their pay TV subscription, cord cutters don’t want to cut the cord.

Juenger held the first of what will be a series of focus groups in New York on March 12, and according to his report, the key finding was this:  “none of these at-risk cord-cutters is likely to cut the cord.”

Other focus groups are planned for Chicago, San Francisco and Boston.

But in the New York group, according to Juenger’s report, participants – 16 men and women aged 23-38, the age groups most identified with severing ties to pay TV – found it extremely hard to craft the package of channels that they watch most at a reasonable price, one of the main selling points of over-the-top TV offerings.

Juenger stressed that the findings should in no way be construed as indicative of what the rest of the country will do.  He added that just because he didn’t find any cord-cutters, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

“The main insights we are trying to surface is consumer language around *why* they behave the way they do,” Juenger wrote. “You cannot extrapolate findings from 16 people to the entire population. As we conduct more groups, in more geographies, over time, the picture will become more complete and the conclusions stronger.”

But the report does offer some insight into what younger viewers are thinking, and the findings can be somewhat surprising. For instance, many participants showed a strong desire for local TV news and viewers that had more than one person in their household found that crafting channel packages was more difficult when they had to consider viewing habits in addition to their own.

Juenger also found that while sports fans find it hard to dismantle the pay TV programming bundle, so do lovers of so-called reality or “trashy,” TV. Participants, mainly women, called shows such as Bravo’s Real Housewives, E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians and VH-1’s Love and Hip-Hop guilty pleasures that they didn’t want to give up. And many didn’t want to wait for those shows to appear for free on online services like Hulu and Amazon several days after original air.

Participants with children were also in a quandary over how many channels they would include. They also realized the value of having channels they don’t watch every day available.

According to Juenger, the most popular answer for “what content is the absolute must-have, can’t live without” wasn’t a particular show or genre but the convenience of having a large choice of channels to choose from.

“Sometimes you don’t want to think about what you want to watch,” said one participant, according to the report.

The group also had almost no awareness of recent OTT offerings like Sling TV, HBO Now and CBS All Access – they saw Dish Network’s Sling TV as an amalgamation of second-tier networks – and little appetite for so-called “skinny” TV packages. When they were asked to pick 10 networks for a fictional $20 per month offering, there was so little commonality between the networks selected that it made it “nearly impossible for a distributor to create a common, skinny package that will appeal to a large number of subscribers,” Juenger wrote.

In the end, most found that it would be easier and cheaper to just stick with their current pay TV offering.


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