Only 40% of the 1.4 million traditional linear pay-TV subscriptions lost in the first quarter of 2019 were recaptured by equivalent over-the-top (OTT) offerings, according to new video cord cutting economics research from analysts at financial research firm MoffettNathanson.

The companies that provide those equivalent OTT offerings have come to be known as virtual multi video programming distributors (vMVPDs), and their offerings include Hulu Live, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Sling TV and others.

MoffettNathanson researchers see these results portending a trend that could drive content owners to move toward direct-to-consumer offerings. They point to Disney’s planned Disney+ offering as an example of this kind of service, commenting that “We’ve described Disney’s planned suite of direct-to-consumer services as a ‘lifeboat,’ ready and waiting if the status quo deteriorated to the point that it came time to abandon ship. . . [I]t may still be too early to abandon ship . . .  but it’s not too early to put on the lifejackets.”

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Video Cord Cutting Economics Research
Some industry observers had expected more people who dropped traditional pay-TV to switch to vMVPD offerings but according to MoffettNathanson, that’s not happening to the extent expected because vMVPD offerings are becoming nearly as “bloated” as traditional pay-TV offerings. People often drop traditional pay-TV because they don’t like paying for channels they don’t watch, but increasingly, content owners are also requiring vMVPD providers to take channels they don’t want, either.

As OTT skinny bundles become less skinny and more expensive, their appeal to video cord cutters fades. Instead some video cord cutters are relying on traditional over-the-air television and subscription video on demand (SVOD) offerings. The latter include services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Moving forward, MoffettNathanson researchers expect to see a “bifurcation” between sports/news, which will continue to be delivered over linear offerings (but at greater cost to consumers), and general entertainment – and they see Disney as the only content provider poised to succeed in both markets.

For other providers of entertainment content, the worst-case scenario is that erosion of traditional linear pay-TV providers “will continue apace . . .but without growth among the vMVPDs, [the] conversion rate will fall further, and more and more households will exist solely outside the existing pay-TV model,” researchers said.

That scenario could force content providers into direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings akin to Disney’s planned Disney+ service. But according to the researchers, “No one can match Disney’s combination of universes, characters and back catalog . . . [O]ther media companies don’t have the same DTC opening that Disney has.”

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One thought on “Report: Cord Cutters Not Turning to Streaming vMVPD Alternatives in Big Numbers

  1. Before long, the only advantage traditional Pay TV will have over any of the OTT services is the ability to conveniently flip through channels with the remote. A bloated service where you pay for too many channels you never watch and has too many commercials per hour is the same disaster regardless of the delivery method. As long as the content providors continue to force bundling, they will conintue to bleed customers to the SVODs, who are showing people how much more enjoyable TV can be when you can watch at your own convenience and without commercial interuptions. After more than 10 years of steady erosion of the old Pay TV method, they still don't get it.

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