Forget Cord Cutters – 31 Million Americans Are ‘Cord Nevers’

A large majority of the streaming television news these days is focused on cable cutters – individuals or households who are cancelling their cable or satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming services. While that number continues to rise and shows no signs of stopping, new data published this week has revealed a previously overlooked segment of the population: “cord nevers.” According to these recent statistics, as high as 12% of the adult population might fall into this group.

Cord nevers are defined by market research group MRI-Simmons as individuals who have never paid for a traditional TV connection such as cable or satellite. In 2017, only around 9% of the U.S. adult population was thought to fall into this group, but now that number has gone up to 12%, or 31 million Americans. The median age for cord nevers is around 33 and the average income for this group hovers around $52,000.

While this data might seem like it signals that a growing number of Americans are eschewing traditional pay TV, the reality might actually be more depressing. 70% of cord nevers said they want to subscribe to a pay TV service, and 27% of cord nevers reported that they plan to subscribe to a pay TV service in the next six months. It turns out there’s a big reason why American 30-somethings aren’t subscribing to pay TV: they can’t afford to.

“Young people used to say that as soon as they got their first well-paying job, they would sign up for the full suite of traditional TV services,” said Karen Ramspacher, senior vice president innovations and insights at MRI-Simmons. “As they grow in numbers and wealth, today’s Cord Nevers definitely represent an opportunity for content providers—but understanding the Nevers’ underlying motivations is essential to targeting them effectively.”

Sure, it’s important for content providers to understand this market, but it’s also important for them to have enough income left over each month to afford a $100 cable subscription. It will be interesting to see what happens to the percentage of cord nevers as the median age increases and streaming options continue to multiply.