Cable Companies Deny It, but Consumers Are in Fact "Cutting the Cord"

Last Updated Nov 12, 2010 3:13 PM EST

As cable execs continue to deny that some former subscribers are engaging in cord-cutting -- i.e. switching cable for streaming programming online -- Harris Interactive has entered the room with a poll that makes one wonder if the cable industry is denying... or in denial.

According to a poll conducted in mid-October, 22 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have curtailed or cut their cable service, while another 21 percent thought about it. That 22 percent figure matches a figure from a similar poll Harris conducted a year ago -- meaning that an awful lot of us are continuing to re-think the cable bill. Surely, consumers are either switching to other kinds of distributors, including Hulu, or Fancast, or Netflix -- or maybe they're just taking more nice long walks.

Interestingly, while the poll also looks at whether people are cutting magazine subs or newspaper subs, the percentage of people cutting those has declined from a year ago -- from 34 percent to 27 percent for magazines, and 21 percent to 17 percent for newspapers.

Those numbers actually line up well with the theory that part of what's going on is so-called cord-cutting -- or at the very least, that people are taking the telcos and satellite networks up on their entreaties to switch. That digital media could do the job of magazines and newspapers has been true for quite a few years. Now, it's video's turn, and the plethora of cheaper non-cable options, plus the recession, is a pretty compelling reason to wonder if cable is all it's cracked up to be.

What the cable companies tend to say when they are queried about their lost subscribers is that this is all about the recession, but the numbers don't lie. The two biggest cable operators -- Time Warner Cable and Comcast, lost a total of 430,000 subscribers in the third quarter. Meanwhile, DirecTV gained 174,000 new U.S. subscribers. It's time for cable operators to start getting real -- and I'm not talking about Jersey Shore.

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