The rise in streaming television viewing in the US continues apace with the frequent arrival of new “skinny bundles” of programming. But if you think there’s no difference between TV Cord Cutters—defined as viewers who eliminated their standard TV subscription—and Cord Nevers (people who have never paid for a traditional TV connection) think again. While Cord Cutters have some things in common with Cord Nevers, they differ in many ways.
Additionally, neither group has ruled out opting for a traditional pay TV service in the future, as their satisfaction with their current TV access situation leaves much room for improvement.
First the similarities, as highlighted by the latest GfK MRI Cord Evolution study, which tracks the attitudes and behaviors of 10,000 respondents nationwide. Both Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers are big fans of shows on Netflix. All 10 of the favorite streaming-only shows of Cutters are on Netflix compared to seven shows preferred by Cord Nevers, whose other three shows are on Amazon or Hulu. The Netflix original “Orange Is The New Black” is #1 for both groups.
When it comes to platform choices, differences emerge. Netflix is the top streaming service among Cord Cutters, with 57% of respondents saying they have used the service in the past year. 50% said they had used YouTube and 37% Amazon. But Cord Nevers prefer YouTube (46%), followed by Netflix (39%) and Amazon (25%).
Cord Nevers are heavy short-video viewers and they over index for over-the-top services like BBC News, Showtime and Vevo. Conversely, Cord Cutters are heavy Internet users and are more likely to be parents (35%, index of 112). They also over-index for OTT services like PBS Video, Disney Movies, Sling TV and A&E.
Semantical differences emerge when respondents are asked to define “TV” and old habits have a way of enduring. Large percentages of Cord Nevers (43%) and Cord Cutters (50%) define TV as anything they can watch specifically on a TV set. Some of this can perhaps be attributed to the rise in connected-TV devices and a migration from mobile video viewing back to a big screen, particularly at night, in the living room. Both groups are equal (29%) in saying that TV is “anything they can view on any device” (including a smartphone or tablet).
With so many streaming choices available, one could assume that Cord Nevers and Cord Cutters would be pretty satisfied. But that’s not the case. The data show that 60% of Cord Nevers are “very satisfied” with their current TV access, compared to 50% of Cord Cutters. Meanwhile, almost one-quarter (22%) of Cord Nevers say they intend to subscribe to a traditional TV service in the next six months, a figure that is slightly higher (27%) among Millennial Cord Nevers.
Cord Nevers and Cord Cutters bring very different histories and expectations to viewing. Both groups still have strong allegiance to TV sets and traditional programming models, but they clearly have different viewing tastes, and even diverge on their perceptions of what TV actually is. As Millennials get older, we can look for these populations to transform and perhaps grow more similar while Gen Z will begin to shape the Cord Never group more and more.
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