Last Updated: October 3, 2021
Satellite and digital cable were huge in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, they were one of the most common sources for news and entertainment around the world. But:
Recent technological advances, such as on-demand streaming services, have challenged pay TV’s place in the market. Many consumers have even chosen to cut their pay TV subscriptions altogether.
However, cable TV isn’t dead just yet. Let’s have a look at some:
Fascinating Cable TV Subscribers Statistics
- The current cable TV market share is just under 50% worldwide.
- The US has 1,775 total television stations and about 5,200 cable systems run by 660 operators, reaching 90% of the entire population.
- Comcast and DirecTV have lost 4.7 million customers between 2017 and 2019.
- 82% of US adults streaming internet TV claim it is more entertaining than cable.
- Pay-TV subscribers will fall each year between 2013 and 2023 by 28%.
- 65% of Americans are still paying for cable TV.
Eye-Opening Cable TV Subscriber Statistics for 2021
Cable TV subscriber stats in 2021 indicate there’s been a 28% fall in the number of paid TV subscriptions between 2013 and 2023.
What else is there in store for cable TV subscribers?
1. Most people now subscribe to a streaming service (69%).
Only 65% pay for cable TV.
In other words, more people now stream mostly through internet TV services, according to streaming vs cable statistics in 2020. The main reason for this is that people can avoid advertising while accessing original content they cannot watch on traditional cable. That’s why it’s no surprise that the live streaming market will be worth over $70 billion by 2021. And the best video streaming services are in a fierce battle for the lion’s share of this amount.
2. The current cable TV market share is just under 50%.
(Source: Grand View Research)
This global figure shows that cable TV still remains the main platform globally. This is followed by satellite TV and finally, internet protocol TV (IPTV), with a relatively small share. This will change, especially considering that cable cutting stats show that the number of people switching to internet TV is increasing.
3. Only 28% of view time is dedicated to traditional TV, 68% go to streaming.
There could be a number of different reasons for this phenomenon, like more channels to choose from or cheaper prices. However, US adults agree that streaming is more entertaining than traditional cable TV, according to pay-TV subscribers statistics.
4. Comcast lost more than 200,000 subscribers in the last quarter of 2020.
The number of subscribers is rapidly declining. Back in 2017, Comcast had over 22 million customers. But that number has gone down to under 19 million in 2020. And things don’t look too bright for the future…
5. Pay-TV subscribers will fall each year between 2013 and 2023 by 28%.
In 2013, there were 100.5 million pay-TV households in the US. By 2023, the number fell to 72.7 million, representing a decrease of 28%. In 2024, there is expected to be the same number of pay-TV households as non-pay TV households. Beyond this, non-paying TV households will overtake paying TV households.
Key US Cable Subscriber Stats
Alright, let’s start. Have you ever wondered what percentage of American households have cable TV?
6. 56% of Americans receive TV via cable or satellite in 2021.
(Source: Pew Research)
You might have expected a higher percentage, but cord-cutting is taking its toll.
“Is TV dying?” The answer is no.
Let’s take WETA 26 in the Greater Washington area as an example. This local PBS affiliate features some top-tier primetime and entertainment programs. Its sister channel, WETA UK, broadcasts British shows, while WETA Kids keeps the little ones happy. So, whether you’re after Washington Week, Midsomer Murders, or Pinkalicious & Peterrific – they’ve got you covered!
Clearly, the quality of local TV channels has an effect on how many Americans have cable.
7. In 2019, the US had a total of 1,775 television stations.
You read that right – there are a lot of stations out there. What’s more, there are about 5,200 cable systems, run by 660 operators, reaching 90% of the entire population.
However, more and more people are looking for greener pastures.
8. In 2021, 27% of US households are planning to cut the cable.
There are many reasons to cancel your cable TV subscription, but the pandemic seemed to have increased the speed at which it is happening. In 2019, cable TV subscriptions saw a 15% decline. But a survey from The Trade Desk predicts that in 2021, 27% of US households will stop using it.
Will this mean the end of cable TV?
9. In 2021, AT&T is the largest cable TV service provider in the US.
(Source: Cable Compare)
With 24.7% of the market, AT&T takes the largest chunk of the cable TV service market. Comcast places second, with 22.5%. Charter follows with 16.9%.
10. More than 6 million people cut the cord in 2020.
(Source: Tech Crunch)
2020 wasn’t a great year for cable TV, as it lost the most subscribers ever. More than six million people canceled their subscription, taking the total number of cord-cutters up to 31.2 million.
11. In 2020, 62% of adults in the US were subscribed to a streaming service.
Millennials and digital natives prefer their devices over the old-fashioned TV set. They’re often on the move, and convenience is key. In contrast, older people are more likely to keep their cable subscriptions because it’s what they’re familiar with and comfortable with.
12. In May 2020, only 28% of American adults had never subscribed to a streaming service.
Interested in streaming vs cable statistics? This one’s for you.
As you can see, the proverbial “Netflix and chill” is as hip as ever. While the company began as a DVD rental service similar to Blockbuster, it quickly transitioned to online streaming.
The introduction of Netflix Originals – new shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black – further boosted its popularity.
13. In Q2 2020, the Fox News channel made over $203 million in advertising revenue.
The COVID-19 pandemic somehow positively influenced the channel’s revenue, as the number shows a 41% increase compared to Q2 2019. But that wasn’t the case for CNN and MSNBC. They saw a decline of 14% and 27% during the same period.
General US Cable Subscriber Statistics
Before we head to the other side of the pond and see how Europe is doing, let’s examine a few more stats from the US.
14. In 2019, cable industry subscriptions in the US were worth $92.44 billion.
That figure is up from $4.5 billion in 1980, according to cable TV subscribers statistics. However, providers have witnessed a steady decline in revenue over the last few years. The industry reached a peak of $99 billion in 2013.
15. As of May 2021, Fox News is the most-watched channel in the US.
With 2.16 million primetime viewers in May 2021, Fox News placed first in the most-watched channels in the US.
16. Fox News averaged 1.22 million daily viewers in April 2021.
This is further proof of FOX’s dominance. According to cable TV statistics, MSNBC was second, with 953 million, and Nickelodeon came third, with 786,000.
17. Netflix has 73.94 million paying subscribers based in the US & Canada.
(Source: Business of Apps, Next TV, Backlinko)
This is huge!
Amazon Prime Video has more subscribers (112 million). But other streaming services fall behind: Hulu has 55 million, Disney Plus has 40 million, HBO Now has 17.1 million, and Dish’s Sling TV has 6.8 million.
Small wonder cable TV subscribers statistics for 2021 are so bleak.
Just like Netflix, all these streaming services offer original programs. So, if you’re a fan of fantasy, you’re probably watching Game of Thrones on HBO. Gearheads, on the other hand, will be tuning in to The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime Video. It’s 2021, and we’re spoilt for choice.
18. Netflix’s revenue was almost $25 billion in 2020.
In 2020, Netflix almost hit $25 billion in revenue. Continuing to grow, the company generated over $7 billion in the first quarter of 2021. It’s some impressive growth, considering that the revenue was $15.79 billion in 2018!
19. 70% of pay-TV subscribers feel they get too little value for their money.
Streaming vs cable statistics show price is the leading factor fuelling cord-cutting. About 56% of current pay-TV customers say they keep their subscription because it’s bundled with their home broadband.
20. 71% of people who decided not to receive cable TV did so because they can access the content they want to watch online.
(Source: Pew Research)
There are many reasons why people want to cut the cable. The most common one is that they can access the content they want to watch online, so they don’t want to pay for a TV subscription. 69% also said that cable/satellite is too expensive. And almost half (45%) of those without a subscription say they aren’t interested in it because they don’t watch much TV.
21. The number of US households that pay for TV will drop to 70 million by 2025.
It’s clear that streaming services are taking over the traditional pay-TV. In March 2021, there were 74 million US households that pay for cable, but that number will drop to below 70 million in a few years. It’ll be interesting to see how these companies will adjust to keep their heads above water.
22. On average, Americans spent $47 per month on streaming services.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to stay indoors, streaming services saw a huge rise in customers. Since the start of the pandemic, the average spending has risen 24%. Almost half of those subscribing to streaming services are signed up to four platforms.
23. 63% of Americans over the age of 68 pay for cable TV.
(Source: Cable Compare)
When looking at cable TV subscribers statistics in 2021, you can see that the younger generation isn’t as interested in paying for TV. Less than half (46%) of those aged 18-37 pay for a TV subscription. For those aged 37-48, the percentage is slightly higher at 48%. 55% of people between 47 and 67 have a subscription, and 63% of those older than 68 still pay for TV.
Global Cable TV Subscribers Statistics
The stats thus far paint a clear picture of how cable TV subscribers statistics shape up in the US. But what about the rest of the world? Let’s have a quick look at Europe first:
24. There will be 78 million digital pay-TV homes in Eastern Europe by 2023.
This number was at 25.5 million in 2010, so we have a clear upward trend. In fact, the situation is the opposite of that in the US. Eastern Europe is still a growing market. But:
Who’s Europe’s leading pay-TV operator?
25. Sky Europe is expected to have a customer base of nearly 15 million subscribers by 2023.
This is up from approximately 10.4 million in 2014.
Now – the Sky Sports channels have traditionally been most popular with viewers. Especially those interested in English Premier League soccer. What’s interesting is Sky Movies is catching up.
Overall, the number of cable subscribers by year is on the rise in Europe.
How about Latin America?
26. In 2024, pay-TV revenue in Latin America will amount to approximately $17.82 billion.
What’s more, this figure will be up from $5.82 billion in 2006.
However, the number has been going slightly declining since 2017 and is expected to stay steady around the $18 billion mark.
27. China is the country with the most cable TV subscribers.
(Source: Cable Compare)
We’ve already looked at how many people pay for cable TV in the US, but what about the rest of the world? China has the largest number of paying TV subscribers, with 342 million people. India places second, with 112 million subscribers.
You might be wondering if cable TV is dying. However, news of cable’s demise might be premature.
What’s more, some analysts even suggest a return to cable bundles might be just around the corner. How come?
Cable companies in the US figured out a long time ago that the easiest solution to a world with tons of paid channels is to bring them together into a more affordable bundle. Some companies will probably rediscover this idea, even as we proceed full steam into the streaming age.
That being said, the cable TV industry continues to be in perilous waters. Comcast lost 96,000 customers during the first quarter of 2018, its fourth straight quarter of subscriber losses. In 2019, it was losing over 2500 users every day. And in Q4 2020 it lost 200,000.
AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service lost 188,000 customers in the same period, which brought down video revenue by $660 million.
So, what’s next for the industry? According to the latest cable TV subscribers statistics, North American revenues will continue to drop for the foreseeable future.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific are emerging as growing markets.
That being said, the industry will have to reinvent itself to survive. The brave new world of online streaming is just around the corner – especially in the US.
56% of Americans receive TV via cable or satellite in 2021.
Yes, because more and more people are ‘cutting the cord’ and turning to internet TV streaming. It’s normally cheaper, and more channels are generally on offer.
There are a number of streaming services that are viable alternatives. Netflix is dubbed the best cord-cutting service, while Hulu the best cable streaming service.
It’s hard to say whether streaming will actually take cable over. What we do know, however, is that streaming is now more popular than cable.
55.1% of Americans will have cut the cord by 2022. Cable TV subscriber statistics show that this number will only grow.
- Grand View Research
- Pew Research
- FOX News
- Pew Research
- Cable Compare
- Tech Crunch
- Business of Apps
- Next TV