September 25, 2012

Although marketers are now familiar with cord cutters—consumers who have traded in their cable TV packages for internet-steamed TV and video content—they should also be aware of “cord frayers.” Cord frayers make up a segment of consumers who have downgraded their cable TV packages instead of cutting the cord completely. Not surprisingly, doing so has affected cord frayers’ TV and online video viewing behavior.

According to an October “Cord Frayer Consumption Trends” study by company Market Strategies, one in four US internet users has frayed the cord in the past two years. The majority of cord frayers told Market Strategies that the cost of cable played the biggest role in their motivation to fray the cord. Cord frayers are most commonly doing away with premium channels when downgrading packages. The Market Strategies survey found that 46% of respondents cancelled one or more premium channels and, to save money, 44% downgraded to a less expensive TV package. It’s worth noting that DVR held strong—only 7% of cord frayers cancelled their DVR service.

Unsurprisingly, cord frayers watched slightly less live TV than non-frayers. More striking, however, was cord frayers’ propensity towards streaming video content online. When asked if they watched less regularly scheduled TV or pay-per-view because of streaming service capabilities, 33% of cord frayers said “yes,” compared to only 20% of non-frayers.

Market Strategies also found that cord frayers owned DVRs and Blu-ray players in greater proportions, compared to non-cord frayers. They watched less TV and purchased less pay-per-view due to streaming services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Non-cord frayers, who told Market Strategies they were very likely to continue paying for TV services a year from now, consumed online video content, too, but to a lesser degree.

A study by Interpret, commissioned by Discovery Communications, indicated that 48% of all US Internet users streamed TV content through an internet-connected device in the month of June. That high penetration suggests that streaming is not unique to cord frayers or cord cutters.

The Interpret data showed that the majority of internet users still watched TV through a cable or satellite box (79%); however, marketers should be aware of the changing behaviors among TV viewers, and among cord frayers, in particular. Not only are cord frayers savvy in the technology they use to consume TV and video content, they also consume media with a very strategic and targeted approach.

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