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Disney+ Launch Sinks 15 Million Nails into Cable TV’s Coffin

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:15 PM
Kiril Nikolaev
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:15 PM
  • Paid TV is trapped in a massive decline, and has been for years.
  • The launch of Disney+ is likely to accelerate the demise of cable TV companies.
  • The excitement behind today’s launch will likely translate to 33 million users in the next five years for Disney+ at the expense of 15 million legacy TV subscribers.

Cord cutters, customers who are unsubscribing from cable TV services, continue to wave goodbye to legacy television, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

According to Daily Dot, 1.53 million customers joined the cord-cutting movement  in the second quarter of this year. That number is up by over 264 percent from 2018. Overall, more than five million subscribers canceled paid TV service  in the last five years.

number of cord-cutters over time
The cord-cutting phenomenon is in a strong uptrend. | Source: eMarketer 

The launch of Disney+ today is like rubbing salt on the wound for cable TV companies. The entertainment giant’s subscription-based video-on-demand (SVOD) service will likely be the bane of cable TV providers.

Once Subscribers Take the Leap, They Never Go Back

The launch of Disney+ is terrible news for cable TV companies.

A look at today’s trending topics on Twitter  in the United States reveals that Disney+ captured the social media spotlight. Both #DisneyPlus and one of its flagship exclusives, #TheMandalorian, rank with the new Sonic the Hedgehog trailer as the most talked about topics on Twitter.

Source: Twitter 

But it’s not just Twitter. Google is also awash in queries  for the term “Disney Plus.” As of press time, the search term has generated over 2 million searches. “Drake” comes in at number two with just 500,000 searches.

With so much excitement behind the launch of the media conglomerate’s new streaming platform, cable TV subscribers could embark on a mass exodus as they sign up to Disney+.

One bullish Disney investor  is betting on this outcome. He told CCN.com,

Simple fact that its millions of Marvel and Star Wars fans will subscribe to watch those series over and over.

He added,

Once you get someone to subscribe, you basically have them forever. No one cancels subscriptions even after the prices rise. There are people that haven’t watched Netflix in years but still pay.

Research supports the view that once customers switch to streaming, they are very unlikely to go back to cable.

A recent Roku report alleges that 81 percent of viewers who said goodbye to paid TV won’t ever return .

Analyst: Paid TV Will Hemorrhage Subscribers Following Disney+ Launch

It appears that the end is fast approaching for cable TV. Adam Thomas, lead analyst of the global TV market segment of research firm Ovum, sees Disney+ eating up market share.

He told CCN.com,

We are expecting a pretty impressive take-up rate for Disney+, so are forecasting that it will pick up more than 33 million subscribers in the US within five years. During that same period we’re forecasting traditional pay-TV services, like cable TV, will lose a further 15 million subscribers.

Thomas added,

Of course you can’t make a simple direct connection between cable’s ongoing decline and the launch of Disney+, as there are so many other factors at play.

The analyst then justified why Disney+ will not help the cause of paid TV.

But it’s certainly true that the launch of Disney+ is a key moment for the industry. Disney is a central figure for premium video content rights, so its active entry into OTT video will have a wide-ranging impact on established distributor relationships in the traditional pay-TV sector, so making the environment for cable TV players just that little bit more difficult.

Cable TV might not be dead yet, but it’s hard to dispute that its days are numbered.