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Why the Price of Cable TV Stopped Going Up So Fast This Year

November 15, 2018, 3:52 PM UTC

After more than a decade of rapid increases, the average cable TV bill barely budged this year. Subscribers to pay TV, which also includes satellite service, paid an average of $107 a month, up less than 1% from 2017, when bills rose 3%.

The slowdown reflects the growing influence of cord cutters, who are dropping pay TV altogether, and so-called cord shavers, who are reducing their costs by cutting the number of channels they receive. All told, 78% of households subscribed to pay TV, down from 79% last year, and well below the peak of 87% a decade ago, according to the latest annual survey from Leichtman Research Group.

That’s consistent with other industry data. Cable, telephone, and satellite companies including Comcast (CMCSA) and AT&T (T) said 1.2 million customers dropped pay TV service in the third quarter, the most ever, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Kagan research group. And forecaster eMarketer recently predicted that 20 million more people will cut the cord to pay TV by 2021.

It’s not everyone who’s dropping pay TV, however. “The penetration of pay-TV among younger individuals and related groups, including renters, singles, and movers, has declined at a faster pace in recent years, expanding demographic divides in pay-TV,” Leichtman president Bruce Leichtman noted in a statement accompanying the results. Broken down by age, 70% of adults ages 18-44 and 84% of those 45 and older subscribed this year.

The opposite is true for Internet video services like Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon’s (AMZN) Prime video offering, Leichtman has found. Among those ages 18-34, 52% stream an Internet service at least daily. For those ages 35-54, only 31% are daily viewers, dropping to just 11% of people 55 and older.