Cord Cutting: Is This the Tipping Point?

July 7, 2020 | blog | By Cortland Fondon

Over the past four months, the coronavirus pandemic has clarified a number of things for people. We rediscovered how much we enjoy spending time with family. We fell in love with puzzles again, and started baking from scratch. We also discovered the value of putting ourselves second and standing up for other people, whether it was putting on a mask or participating in a march.

The extra time and life circumstances we’ve endured thanks to COVID-19 have drastically changed the way Americans live our everyday lives. And for millions of consumers, that included making the decision to finally cut the cord on cable and satellite.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “the largest cable and satellite TV companies lost more than two million customers in the first three months of the year, the industry’s sharpest quarterly decline on record, as restaurants, bars, and hotels hit by the coronavirus pandemic joined consumers canceling or pausing service.” That’s on top of the 5 million subscribers who headed for the exits in 2019.

Consider that scenario for a second. Since the middle of March, people have had more time to watch TV than at any point in recent memory and record numbers chose to cut the cord.

According to a July 2019 graphic from eMarketer, in 2013 there were 80 million more PayTV households than non-PayTV households in the U.S. This year, the delta is 38.6 million and by 2023 it’s projected to be 16.6 million.

So, what gives? At first blush, you might think the mass cord-cutting was price-driven, with record numbers of people out of work and others unwilling to stomach north of $125 a month for cable. But low perceived value and hidden fees are only part of it. Some consumers are simply bucking the bundle concept that so many cable providers (now broadband providers) use to hook us, cutting the PayTV cord and separating out their phone, television, and broadband. The thing is, according to Bruce Leichtman with the broadband, video, and TV research firm Leichtman Research Group, the big TV providers may not care.

“Providers are being much more disciplined in who they’re going after; they’re looking for profitable subscribers,” said Leichtman. “Keep in mind what we call ‘cable providers’ are now broadband providers. Their main source of earnings is broadband. The traditional PayTV business is not as much a priority for them as it used to be.”

The other big draw for cutting the cord is the ability to more accurately choose what you want to watch.

While some cable bundles come with seemingly endless channels, you might actually watch 20-30 of them on a regular basis. In that case, there are certainly cheaper ways to watch them. Instead of settling for giant bundles or packages from cable or satellite, many are opting to cut the cord and cobble together their own content packages using over-the-top (OTT) streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu coupled with free viewing online. Thanks to DVRs and Video on Demand, TV viewing isn’t as time-sensitive as it once was and, with more and more consumers getting accustomed to on-demand viewing available whenever they want to watch, traditional viewing just isn’t cutting it. So consumers are doing it for them.

We want what we want and we want it now.

For those who truly love watching television, we are living in the Golden Age. Never has there been so much content to choose from and whether you gravitate to dramas, comedies, musicals, sports, thrillers, documentaries, or foreign films, the overall quality has never been higher. It’s only logical that consumers would find a way to get more of the content they want at the lowest price possible.

With time at home to consider how to make that happen, it appears more and more people are taking the plunge. And really, who can blame them?

Recently, Vox did a fantastic deep dive into the different viewing options, but here’s a quick topline:


PITCH: Enormous, constantly-growing amount of domestic and international content including original programming as well as older movies and TV shows for all ages and areas of interest.

NOTABLE: Bojack Horseman, Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black, Tiger King, Ozark, 13 Reasons Why, Mindhunter, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Roma

COST: $8.99 to $15.99 per month


PITCH: Probably the best streaming service for TV shows (it was started by NBC and Fox) with some original content and older movies.

NOTABLE: The Handmaid’s Tale, Ramy, Mrs. America, Minding the Gap, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the FX catalog

COST: $5.99 to $11.99 per month. Hulu also offers bundles for as much as $60.99 than include live TV.

Amazon Prime

PITCH: Huge collection of award-winning films, TV programs, and original content that can be purchased a la carte, or in many cases, available for FREE with an Amazon Prime subscription.

NOTABLE: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, Catastrophe, Mozart In The Jungle, Mr. Robot, Spongebob Squarepants

COST: $8.99 to $12.99 per month


PITCH: Everything HBO plus some of the most popular TV shows and older movies in history.

NOTABLE: The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, Barry, Watchmen, South Park, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Rick & Morty plus Turner Classic Movies, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, DC, Sesame Street and more.

COST: $14.99 per month


PITCH: Everything Disney plus Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic, and more.

NOTABLE: Star Wars, The Avengers, Black Panther, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Simpsons, The Lion King, Frozen, The Clone Wars, The Mandalorian

COST: $6.99 per month ($18.99 per month bundled with Hulu and ESPN+)


PITCH: Everything NBC plus programming from Universal and Dreamworks Animation including movies, sports, and 15,000 hours of TV programming.

NOTABLE: Parks and Recreation, SNL, America’s Got Talent, Law & Order, This Is Us, Cheers, Everybody Loves Raymond, Downton Abbey, Will & Grace, The Olympics

COST: $4.99 per month

CBS All Access

PITCH: Everything CBS including archival programming and NFL Football.

NOTABLE: Survivor, Big Brother, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, The Good Fight, Evil, The Grammy Awards, The Tony Awards, NFL Football

COST: $5.99 to $9.99 per month


PITCH: 85+ top channels of entertainment, news, live sports and more. Recording without storage limits and 6 accounts included.

NOTABLE: Big 4 major networks, sports networks like ESPN, FS1, MLB Network, Golf Channel, SEC Network, AMC, BET, Bravo, Comedy Central, E!, Food Network, Turner Stations

COST: $64.99 per month

Add up all but YouTubeTV and for less than $62 per month (less than half of some cable packages), you can enjoy everything Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney+, AppleTV+, Peacock and CBS All Access have to offer which is more content than you could watch in two lifetimes. Add in Quibi for just $4.99 a month (for those times when you really need content in chunks under 10 minutes) and all you have to figure out is how to watch local news and live sports. Fortunately, there are countless resources to help and it’s a lot easier than you’d think.

As for what all this will do to the advertising landscape? That’s another blog for another day

CORTLAND FONDON is director of digital media and strategy at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Cortland Fondon

Director Of Digital Media at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency

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