Canadian TV Cord Cutting Surges!


In 2013, the number of Canadian homes that subscribed to pay TV (cable, telco or satellite) fell by 7,602 from 2012. That was on a base of about 11.15 million subscribers, so the decline was a whopping 0.07%. As I said at the time:

“if TV cord cutting is epidemic, then this is the smallest epidemic in history.”

According to the telecom publication The Wire Report (registration required), the 2014 data show a dramatic increase in the year over year decline: the number of subscribers for the large, public cable, telco and satellite providers fell by “almost 32,000.” While I will agree that the rate of decline is accelerating, a drop of 0.3% is a) probably not something the TV distributors should be freaking out over; and b) a whole heck of a lot smaller than the media keeps suggesting.

At the end of 2013, a poll of Canadians suggested that 16% were thinking about cancelling cable.  Other polls suggest that the number of Canadians who have actually cut the cord has doubled in the last year. How can the polls be so misleading?

Don’t get me wrong: polling is a fantastically useful tool…in the absence of final data. During an election campaign, polls give us a window into likely outcomes. But the only result that REALLY matters is once all the votes are cast and counted. Polls are based on limited samples, and require various adjustments.

Polls on cord-cutting are better than nothing. But at the end of every year, we have the actual, audited subscriber counts from large public companies. Those numbers are like the election count: they are the final and indisputable evidence of what people are actually doing.

I think it is likely that cord-cutting will increase again in 2015. But for the time being, can we cool down the rhetoric on this being a massive or widespread issue in Canada? As I said about another topic, cord-cutting isn’t merely niche behaviour at this point – it is a NICHE niche!

[One clarification. The numbers quoted above are based only on the large public TV distributors: Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, Cogeco, Videotron, and so on. Those players represent over 90% of Canadian subscribers, so it is possible that cord-cutters are closer to 34-35,000.]


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