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Video streaming beats cable subscriptions for the first time

By the Motion Picture Association of America's count, more people are now subscribing to online video streaming services than cable television.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

It had to happen eventually. People have been turning to cord-cutting for years to avoid paying higher cable and satellite TV bills. Now, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), there are more streaming subscribers than there are cable TV customers.

Streaming passed satellite TV in 2015, but there has always been far more more cable TV viewers than satellite TV customers. The handwriting was on the wall, however. Streaming service subscribers numbers were increasing by over 20 percent every year, while cable TV numbers were seeing single-digit declines annually.

Specifically, online video services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, grew from 2017 to 2018 by 27 percent. All together, there were 613.3 million video streaming subscribers in 2018, while cable subscribers dropped to 556 million customers. This was a drop of two percent.

MPAA Streaming Video Growth-2014-2018

Streaming is becoming home video's future. 

(Image: MPAA)

That said, cable remains more profitable than online streamers. Indeed, despite its decline in subscribers, cable TV companies saw their revenue increase. Cable TV reached $118 billion in total revenue. This was a gain of $6.2 billion in 2018.

The MPAA also found that most people are not cutting the cable cord. Instead, they're subscribing to online streaming services and cable TV packages.

In Deloitte's most recent Digital media trends survey, the research company found: "'Streaming services versus traditional pay TV' is not an either/or proposition for many: Consumers often want both. Forty-three percent of US households now subscribe to both pay TV and streaming video services. For live TV news, sports, and TV shows, most consumers still turn to traditional pay TV networks, although live TV streaming services are gaining traction."

Deloitte also observed that streaming subscribers pay for an average of three services. Why? It's all about content: "In 2018, 57 percent of paid streaming video users said they subscribed to access original content. This number is even higher among millennials, at 71 percent."

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Overall, we love our television no matter how we get it. In 2018, by the MPAA's numbers, home entertainment spending -- cable, satellite, streaming, and DVD/Blu-ray -- increased by $23.3 billion, 12 percent year over year. Streaming, as you'd expect, has the fastest growth, while physical media is on its way out. Between 2017 and 2018, physical media revenue dropped by 15 percent.

So, where do you spend your home entertainment dollar? Let us know in the comments. 

Me? I cut the cord years ago. I get my television from a combination of streaming services and over-the-air for my local TV networks.

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