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US pay TV penetration will drop below 50% in 2023

The forecast: Pay TV is in free fall, as more and more families cut the cable cord. By the end of 2023, less than half of US households will have a traditional pay TV subscription. The total number of pay TV households will drop to 65.1 million, a 4.8% decrease from 2022.

Beyond the chart:

  • Between 2016 and 2021, pay TV lost more than 50 million adult viewers (or 25.5 million households), posting the steepest drop in 2020, at 7.7%.
  • As pay TV declines, virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) will be on the rise. Many cord-cutting households will turn to such services as Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV. By the end of 2022, 15.0 million households will subscribe to a vMVPD, up 7.6% from 2021 and representing 11.4% of all US households.
  • The growth of vMVPDs will not be enough to offset the decline of pay TV. In 2022, 63.2% of all households will have either pay TV or a vMVPD, but this figure will decline to 54.8% in 2026.

Looking ahead: The streaming landscape is changing, as streamers strike deals for live sports programming and introduce ad-supported tiers of membership. These factors create an increasingly enticing environment for disgruntled pay TV households to finally cut the cord.