updated 05:45 pm EDT, Fri May 20, 2011
ABI says online and telco TV hurting cable
In spite of doubts of cord cutting, at least some cable TV providers are feeling an impact from Internet video and some of their more digitally-aware phone companies, ABI Research found in a new study. Cable still had the lead but dropped from 72 percent of TV viewing worldwide in 2009 to 69 percent this past year. What growth there was took place in areas such as Latin America, where many hadn't had access to cable TV to start with and, in Brazil's case, were getting it through a government access plan.
The study didn't fully examine what services were taking share. In the US, Internet TV is led by Hulu, Netflix, and TV station-specific sites on the web as well as pay-per-show stores like iTunes. TV is now an option over AT&T's VDSL-based U-verse as well as Verizon's fiber optic FiOS TV. Online video is typically cheaper to run even factoring in a fast Internet connection, and both the VDSL and fiber options usually have higher quality as well as extras.
Free, over-the-air HDTV broadcasts have also been gaining popularity, ABI said.
Cable providers usually argue that declines can be blamed on economic factors from customers that can't afford to keep running service. Improvements in the job climate lead to customers coming back in this view. Younger viewers not raised on traditional TV and with lower starting incomes have been more likely to skip getting cable where their parents might have done the same.