Throwing cold water on cord-never hyperbole

Last week’s article in MediaPost on the TV of Tomorrow conference included another example of the hyperventilating hyperbole that unfortunately drives our industry’s conversation about cord-cutters and cord-nevers.

In an unattributed quote in the article, the author writes “Millennials are cord-nevers who didn’t grow up in a world of TV networks.” Whether this is her opinion, or something a speaker said, is not specified. But whomever the quote belongs to, they are vastly incorrect.

The definition of a millennial varies, but for the purposes of this post, let’s say it’s people born between 1982 and 2004. And, again, for the purposes of this post, we’ll use high quality data from The Home Technology Monitor, published by SRI (1981-2001), Knowledge Networks (2001-2011), and GfK (2012 to present)*. This respected source has always used a representative probability-based sample that includes all homes, including offline and Spanish-dominant homes.

So let’s look at a couple of years with millennial kids:

— 1999 (kids 0 to 17 years old are millennials): pay TV penetration in these homes was 78%

— 2004 (kids 0 to 17 years old are millennials): pay TV penetration in these homes was 81%.

As can be seen from these two snapshots, millennials most definitely grew up in a corded world. Their homes were very familiar with TV networks and pay TV.

In fact, even this year – when adult millennials are ages 18 to 35 – the presence of traditional pay TV in households headed by a millennial is still a majority 59%.

Perhaps the author (or whomever she quoted) meant Gen Z and not millennials. Or maybe it was meant to say one of these groups are somewhat more likely to be cord-nevers. But the statement as published is an example of the received (incorrect) “wisdom” that comes out of many digital-focused reports and presentations from people unfamiliar with the long-term trends of TV reception and use.

All that being said, is cord-cutting, and are cord-nevers, a significant issue for the TV industry? Do TV stakeholders need to learn to play in an increasingly streaming world? Absolutely. But let’s not exacerbate the issue by passing along poor data.

And lastly, don’t get me started on later in the column when a media research leader used her child as an example of changing media use – a topic I covered some years ago here.

*Disclosure: the author ran The Home Technology Monitor between 1995 and 2017, and was employed by GfK until October 2017

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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