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2017 Cord Cutting Statistics, Reports & Analysis

We dig into our site's statistics and survey responses to identify where Cable TV cord cutting is headed as we speed into 2017.

  – Chris Cagle

I sent out a quick 4 question survey to my newsletter subscribers looking for some immediate insight around what cord cutters are up to heading into 2017. After some bribes including chances at a free Roku Stick and T-Shirt, I ended up with about 20% of my list responding. :)

What are the most popular Streaming Services?

It was a simple and straightforward question. With a 98% response rate, this was easily the most answered question in my survey. 18% said that they do not subscribe to any streaming service, 25% only use one service (half of them use Netflix users) and 57% said they subscribed to more than one.

2017 Top Streaming Services

Also, out of the 57% that said they have yet to cut the cord, 79% of them still subscribe to at least one streaming service. I feel this is strong proof that streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are only partially responsible for the recent cord cutting craze, and likely not the driving force.

Oh, you want to know what I think the driving force is? In my honest opinion, it is the really high bills coupled with the forced Cable TV bundling packages. People only want to pay for what they use... but anyway, back to the numbers. :)

Why haven't some cut the cord yet?

I really wanted to know why people haven't ditched their high-priced Cable TV bills yet.

These people are clearly interested in cutting the cord, otherwise, they would not have ended up on my site that is 100% dedicated to that cause — and that cause alone. So I asked a simple question to those who said they have not yet cut the cord... Why?.

Their responses widely varied from the disheartening statement of "I need to wait until my Cable TV contract ends" to the those that saw the light at the end of the tunnel: "I'm almost there..."

However, the common theme why someone who wanted to cut the cord hasn't yet was centered around lack of information. This is unfortunate because in most cases, there are always answers to them. Here are some of the reasons given, along with the information I would have supplied to someone that told me that directly:

  • "Because of local sports" – I love sports, and I am able to get all my Pittsburgh teams without Cable TV.

  • "I will miss my shows" – I don't miss any shows I like except for 60 minutes. Everything else is either on SlingTV or Hulu waiting for you anytime you want.

  • "It's a lot of work to get TV online"The setup could be a little daunting for someone that is not tech-savvy, but once we setup ours, my 5 year old son navigates around the Roku easier than I do.

  • "I am too far away from the TV towers" – This could be wholy legit depending on where you live, but based on our research, over 90% of the US is within range of a TV station OTA - even those 60+ miles away.

Going into 2017, I have a lot of work to do to build up convincing content on NoCable.org to help assuage these concerns and to get more people to take the cord cutting plunge. In addition to that, I need to do a better job at selling the cord cutting dream: 43% of my mailing list subscribers that responded have not cut the cord yet, even though they want to.

Where are all the Cord Cutters?

Antenna Type by Location

Moving on past just my survey data, I decided to look at the 5,000+ DTV antennas I've sold through Amazon Affiliates in 2016. I wanted to see if I could determine where these cord cutters are based on the type of antenna they were purchasing.

This was not so easy with the limited amount of data I can download from Amazon's portal. I did find that over 4,000 of the antennas we sold had their range right in the title, so I wrote a quick SQL script to pull those out and chart them. Unfortunately, some of the antennas didn't have the "mileage range" listed in their title, so they were not included. I un-scientifically grouped all those mileages into three general location types:

  • Metro (20-35 mile range): 17%
  • Small Town (40-60 mile range): 71%
  • Rural (65+ mile range): 12%

In a bit of a surprise, those just on the outside of a major metro area were the most interested in Cord Cutting based on their antenna purchase history - and by a really wide margin: almost 3-to-1. However, I think this may have to do a little with the fact that people 40+ miles away from their city's stations need the most help in choosing an OTA antenna, and thus have to seek out a site like NoCable.org. For example, if you are 10 miles away from your local city's ABC or CBS affiliate, it is likely very clear that a 25-mile range antenna would work for you. It may not always be so clear for someone that lives 40-50-60+ miles away from a major city that they can get TV over-the-air.

Why would I ever think that? Easy - because that was me back in January 2016. I had no idea that I could get free local TV over the air considering that I was a good 45+ miles away from Pittsburgh, PA.

Gauging Cord Cutting Interest by US State

The page I threw together last year that outlined the 2016 Cord Cutting statistics was a popular one. It was featured across many news articles and was probably the most linked to page our site in 2016.

However, I was never happy with the way I built some of the numbers on that page.

For example, for the top cord cutting states, I just took those with the most pageviews and the most reports run on our homepage. This was obviously going to skew numbers towards California, Texas, New York and Florida as they are the four largest states in the US by total population. Of course, they would have the most traffic!

I set out to find a better way to remove the bias more population would impact on these statistics. I decided to chart percentages of the totals against each other and find the outliers.

Interest based on NoCable.org Reports

Here I charted 2013 US census state population versus the number of availability reports run on our site. These availability reports numbered just over 45,000 and are generated when a visitor on our site wants to see exactly which channels they would get with a OTA antenna.

US States vs Cord Cutting Reports

Here you can see (as denoted by the asterisks) we have 9 states that are trending higher (based on values above the standard deviation) in cord cutting interest than what their population dictates.

The top performing states in this metric were Arkansas, Washington, Alaska, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. All other states were either at or below the standard deviation of reports-to-population ratio.

Interest based on NoCable.org Site Traffic

I also wanted to chart NoCable.org's website traffic vs the US population. I grabbed the percentages off the Audience » Geo » Location » By State report within Google Analytics for the whole 2016 year. This totaled over 2.3 million pageviews, so I felt this was more than enough to find some trends in.

US States vs Site Traffic

The top performing states within this comparison were The District of Columbia, Washington, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Georgia, Michigan and Florida. All other states were either at or below the standard deviation of traffic-to-population ratio.

The 2017 State Cord Cutting Interest Index (CCII)

I decided to combine all the data above into a new metric I will be tracking now called the Cord Cutting Interest Index (CCII). The CCII is meant to track the interest level of cutting the cable TV cord by US state. The CCII has three major components, as described in greater detail above:

  • 2013 Census State Populations (data source)
  • Availability Reports ran by NoCable.org visitors
  • Traffic to the NoCable.org website

This map shows the level of CCII per state within a heatmap. Interestingly the 3 largest states by population: California, Texas and New York and all in the bottom fifth of the CCII. At first I thought there may have been something I was not accounting for properly, but then I noticed how Florida, Michigan and North Carolina are all in the top fifth of the index, yet they are also within the top 10 most populated states.

I believe the CCII accurately portrays the interest levels across each state. This could be especially useful information for streaming advertisers when trying to geolocate their ad buys, or even for Cable TV companies looking to curb their subscriber losses. Regardless of how it is used, I hope it is useful for all of those looking for this level of insight into the Cord Cutting trend going into 2017.

US States by Cord Cutting Interest

Cord Cutting interest is above average:

STATECC Interest Index
1. Washington100
2. North Carolina88
3. Florida82
4. Massachusetts82
5. Arkansas81
6. Michigan80
7. District of Columbia80
8. Alaska78
9. Georgia73
10. Colorado71
11. New Hampshire69
12. Wisconsin69
13. Minnesota68
14. Virginia68
15. Maine65
16. Connecticut64
17. Nebraska63
18. Tennessee63
19. Montana62
20. Iowa62
21. Vermont62
22. North Dakota61
23. Utah61
24. South Dakota61
25. Wyoming59
26. Idaho59
27. Kansas58
28. Rhode Island57

Cord Cutting interest is below average:

STATECC Interest Index
51. California1
50. New York11
49. New Jersey28
48. Texas32
47. Alabama33
46. Indiana35
45. Ohio36
44. Arizona37
43. Illinois44
42. Maryland45
41. Kentucky46
40. Louisiana46
39. Pennsylvania48
38. Mississippi49
37. Hawaii50
36. Oklahoma51
35. Missouri51
34. New Mexico53
33. West Virginia54
32. Nevada56
31. South Carolina56
30. Oregon57
29. Delaware57

Why is Washington state so interested in Cable Cutting?

Well, this August 2016 lawsuit may have something to do with it.

Washington state hates Comcast, and is suing them for $100m in damages. The lawsuit accuses Comcast of engaging in a pattern of deceptive practices and asserts that Comcast's own documents reveal a pattern of illegally deceiving its customers in an effort to pad its bottom line by tens of millions of dollars.

Now Washington does not have a monopoly on hatred towards Comcast, but the timing of this lawsuit likely had something to do with many Washingtonians looking for a Cable TV alternative.

What happened to California?

California actually had a decent amount of interest in cord cutting, but their interest rate was trending significantly below their percentage of the overall US population, and way below almost every other state.

So I wanted to know why California and New York were so far below the interest level compared to all the other 49 states (including DC) in the US. These two states hold the largest two cities in our country — New York and Los Angeles — so it may have to do with the fact that those in metro areas were only 17% of our antenna buyers (see above).

However, I was able to find some stats that described California as being a very cable-friendly state. California's cable companies employ over 65,000 workers in the Cable industry, and those cable companies have invested over $2 billion in their infrastructure upgrades. These upgrades have given over 98% of Californians access to cable broadband internet according to the California Cable & Telecommunications Association. With all the bundling Cable TV companies are notorious for, I would not be surprised if the majority of broadband internet users in CA are also forced into buying Cable TV packages they may not necessarily want.

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