We’re often told how millennials are doing things differently than prior generations. We hear platitudes about their mobile lifestyle, their love of social media and their need to share nearly everything online. The surge in popularity of social media companies such as Facebook and Snap more than underscores millennials’ differing online media habits, but there has always been plenty of denial — by the industry, at least — surrounding a growing trend that is almost exclusively a millennial trend: getting rid of cable TV subscriptions, a trend that’s also known as cord-cutting.
CEOs of the so-called legacy media companies — such as Comcast, Disney and CBS — don’t like to talk about falling subscriber numbers. In fact, both Comcast and several analysts point toward the fact that Comcast continues to add subscribers as proof that there is no such thing as a cord-cutting trend. But while Comcast is benefiting from “skinny packages” that bundle Internet and TV together, once-bulletproof legacy channels such as ESPN are dying the death of a thousand cuts.
Despite Comcast’s denials, the fact of the matter is that millennials just don’t watch TV the same way baby boomers did when they were young. And the latest data on U.S. online streaming trends doesn’t lie:
As you can see from the chart above, the trend toward online streaming among millennials is on the rise, gaining ground sharply in the fourth quarter of last year. What’s more, many of these viewers aren’t even streaming content to their TVs, as Statista reports that “online users aged 18 to 24 years spent an average of 161 minutes consuming online videos via PC per week.” However, media execs continue to scoff at the development of millennials streaming videos on their PCs rather than spending time on their couches in front of their TVs.
The bottom line is that legacy media is on its way out, and streaming is on its way in. I would speculate that the only reason companies like Comcast are still seeing a rise in subscribers is due to pricing on bundling and a lack of technical know-how. Honestly, bundling is the only reason we have cable TV in the Hargett household — my provider made it cheaper to get TV and Internet than just Internet alone.
Promotions like these will have to end sooner or later to avoid damage to the bottom line. And when they do, you’ll see the cord-cutting trend gain a bit more momentum, and those weekly online streaming stats will rise even higher.
Assistant Managing Editor, Banyan Hill