10,000 in Twin Cities cut pay TV cord

Not sure if this is a sign of the economic times we’re living in or a reaction to the growing amount of free TV stuff to be found online, or both. But it’s intriguing that more than 10,000 Twin Cities homes recently gave up on their pay TV subscriptions.

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The down tick from 1,487,892 subscribers to 1,477,576 between the first and second quarters of 2010 amounts to less than a 1 percent decrease. But ours was one of the few top markets to see a decline.

Here’s a chart from the Wall Street Journal blog:


The journal writes, “For the first time since the dawn of cable TV, the number of U.S. households paying for TV subscriptions is falling, marking a potential turning point in the TV business.”

I’ve never paid for TV service. I’m too cheap and don’t need the battle with the kids over watching Cartoon Network. So I’m in no position to understand why people are cutting the pay TV cord. But it seems like there’s a shift under way.

Throughout the Great Recession, sources in MPR’s Public Insight Network have told us repeatedly they are moving away from spending and using any extra money to pay down debt or save. Even as the economy improves for many, we’re still getting the message from Minnesotans: we’re not buying.

National data show the personal savings rate of Americans continues to climb.

Here’s a chart by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showing personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income since 1970 (click on the chart for a larger view).


You can see savings took a dive in the 2000s but has been rebounding out of the recession. We’re squirreling our money away.

SNL Kagan, the company that did the research that spawned the Journal post, recently wrote:

SNL Kagan estimates U.S. cable operators lost 741,000 basic video customers in third-quarter 2010, marking the single largest quarterly dip for cable since SNL Kagan began compiling data for the segment in 1980.

If you’ve walked away from subscriber TV during the Great Recession, drop us a line and tell us why.

  • Joe

    I left paid T.V. years ago, due mostly to the incompetence of the big media companies to understand and provide and ala carte option. They wan’t you to pay big bucks for you to use 20% of the channels you even want.

    It is simply so much easier to find your T.V. shows online for free why would I even bother to pay for a show.

  • Zebulun

    We tried one of the satellite television providers a few years ago. As soon as our contract expired, we dropped it. Not only was the customer service terrible, but we found that we were basically paying $30 – $40 per month for several dozen channels of nonstop commercial advertisements. It so soured me on commercial television that I never watch anything other than Netflix and PBS anymore.

  • John O.

    One of the things that initially drove people like us to cable was the 24/7 availability of networks like CNN, Weather Channel, ESPN, etc. in those “pre-internet” days. For those old enough to remember, the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War was essentially broadcast live on CNN 24/7 with Wolf Blitzer hunkered down in Baghdad. For those of us with cable, how many of us turn to the Weather Channel during storms? Local television news operations have had to change the way they operate.

    The advent of ESPN, followed by other sports channels has generated millions in revenue for colleges and professional teams and leagues of all types and sizes. If you still have cable and did not notice, many of the movie channels are now “on demand” channels where you can select a movie rather than having to surf amongst 50 different channels to see what is on.

    In today’s world of instantaneous information either on the computer, cell phone and/or PDA, cable finds itself dealing with the same competitive forces that had their network competitors in stitches about roughly 20 to 25 years ago. Today’s cable news has–in my opinion–morphed into little more than 24/7 bullhorns for varying political views.

    At my house, internet and cable TV ride the same coaxial cable. I suspect it won’t be much longer when the two eventually become one.

  • Derek

    My wife and I have cable with a DVR in our Twin Cities apartment, but I would keep the internet over the cable. I can find useful information on the fly with the internet. With my next cell phone, I’ll likely opt towards a data plan and that will probably affect my internet usage on my computer (why pick up the computer just to see sports scores?). We are spoiled by the DVR racking up programming to watch when we actually want to. I’d bet that DVRs hurts the broadcasters’ attempts to introduce new programs. On the upside for pay TV, having HD sports coverage is great.

    I have no pay TV in my out-of-state apartment where I live 5 nights a week to work. The over-the-air TV that I can pick up with an indoor antenna, along with good old radio, and the internet are sufficient for the 20-30 hours per week I have free there. I am willing to pay for internet access, but am curious about the future potential to use a cell phone to connect my computer.

  • Robert

    We dropped cable in 09 and haven’t went back since then the price keeps going up and that’s what cause us to leave it since then we now use a mix between hulu and Netflix though the computer connected to our tv for every thing we want to watch

    It’s obvious why people are leaving at 60 70 and 90 dollars a month up for a lot of things you never watch