More than 22 million Americans to join cord cutting revolution

Winter is here for cable and satellite TV operators.

American consumers are canceling traditional pay-TV service at a much faster rate than previously expected, according to research firm eMarketer.

In 2017, 22.2 million U.S. adults will cut the cord on cable, satellite or telco TV service — up 33 percent over 2016 — the researcher now predicts. That’s significantly higher than eMarketer’s prior estimate of 15.4 million cord-cutters for this year. Meanwhile, the number of “cord-nevers” (consumers who have never subscribed to pay TV) will rise 5.8 percent this year, to 34.4 million.

“Younger audiences continue to switch to either exclusively watching [over-the-top] video or watching them in combination with free-TV options,” said Chris Bendtsen, senior forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “Last year, even the Olympics and [the U.S.] presidential election could not prevent younger audiences from abandoning pay TV.”

Overall, 196.3 million U.S. adults will have traditional pay TV (cable, satellite or telco) this year, down 2.4 percent compared with 2016, eMarketer predicts. By 2021, that will drop to 181.7 million, a decline of nearly 10 percent from 2016. The number of pay-TV viewers 55 and older will continue to rise over the next four years, while for every other age cohort the subscriber tallies will decline.

By 2021, the number of cord-cutters will nearly equal the number of people who have never had pay TV — a total of 81 million U.S. adults. That means around 30 percent of American adults won’t have traditional pay TV at that point, per eMarketer’s revised forecast.

There’s a caveat on these numbers: eMarketer’s estimates for pay-TV viewers do not include “virtual” internet TV services, such as Dish Network’s Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Hulu’s live TV service, or YouTube TV. But industry analysts say over-the-top TV subscription services so far have not offset declines in traditional pay television. Moreover, the…

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