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Connected TV: hits and misses

TMT Media Predictions 2013

Deloitte | TMT Media Predictions 2013In 2013, Deloitte predicts that tens of millions of connected TV sets will sell globally, and the installed base of TV sets with integrated connectivity should exceed 100 million1. By the end of the decade, the vast majority of new TV sets sold in developed countries will likely incorporate two-way connectivity2. However, this may be because it will have become nigh impossible to purchase an un-connected TV set, much as it is the case that in developed countries it is very hard to purchase a brand new cathode ray tube (CRT) TV set.

But despite the forecast boom in sales, only a modest proportion of connected TV sets sold in 2013 and beyond – 15 percent at most – are likely to be purchased solely or primarily for their integrated two-way connectivity3. In the vast majority of cases price, size, thinness or bezel width are likely to be the primary reasons for purchase.

Most customers purchasing connected TVs are likely to regard two-way connectivity as a welcome bonus. Some might be indifferent4. Some may struggle to access the functionality. A few might feel put out at having to pay for functionality which they have no intention of using, or to which they already have access.

A key reason why connectivity per se is unlikely to be a key selling point for new TVs in 2013 is because hundreds of millions of households around the world already have one or more ways of connecting their TV sets. In at least ten countries around the world, over thirty percent of households already have connected TV - even if in some cases they may not realize it5. In a few markets – those with high broadband and PC penetration – the effective connected TV base may be double this, at 60 percent of households6.

The effective base of connected TV households is so high because there are multiple ways by which a TV set can be connected. TVs can be connected via a wide range of peripheral devices, many tens of millions of which around the world are likely to already be permanently connected to the TV. Current generation games consoles, set-top boxes and Blu-Ray players typically have two-way connectivity built in and, in most homes, they are permanently connected to TV sets. These peripherals often offer dedicated menus and apps to access movie and TV on demand services. The principal usage of connected TV tends to be to access more content. So households whose TV set is attached to a peripheral with two-way connectivity would not need to purchase a connected TV to access video content on-demand.

Other devices that may not be constantly connected to a TV set can also make a TV “connected”. Laptops, tablets and high-end smartphones can all be connected to a TV set, via a wire or wirelessly. The installed base of these devices numbers over three billion globally. Modern laptops often incorporate high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) ports that provide simple-to-use, high-definition (HD) connections to TV sets; tablets can connect via wires or via a Wi-Fi connection; phones can connect via mini HDMI or wirelessly. In short – there are already myriad ways and billions of existing, owned devices that can enable a TV to become connected.

It should, in practice, be easier to use on-demand TV and movie services on a TV set with built-in two-way connectivity. After all, laptops, tablets and smartphones may be out of the house at the time when someone wants to watch connected TV. But the greater ease-of-use would only be a significant differentiator if viewers were to use connected TV services frequently. In practice, connected TV sets are likely only to be used occasionally to play online games, browse the Internet, download apps, or even video conference; the principal usage of a TV set is likely to remain to watch TV programmes and movies. Usage of TV-on-demand is rising but is likely to remain a small proportion of overall TV viewing. The majority of programs and films that people watch in 2013 will likely be available and consumed via broadcast terrestrial, satellite or cable.

In the majority of cases, broadcast quality and broadcast programs recorded to a DVR should be better than that which is available online. The internet’s rivalrous nature should never be overlooked: the internet is a shared resource. Your neighbor’s use of the Internet may affect the quality of service in your home. If bandwidth is scarce in your neighborhood, this may compromise your ability to watch TV-on-demand, particularly when the pictures are being shown on a large TV screen, rather than a medium-sized laptop screen, or a small smartphone screen. Broadcast, by contrast, is a non-rivalrous service, and everyone in your street or block can be consuming TV pictures with no impact on your quality.

In summary, the base of households supporting two-way connectivity is already vast; the usage of that connectivity has remained sparse. Connected TVs will sell, but most likely primarily for the thinness of their bezels, the sharpness of their screen or their value for money.

Bottom line

In 2013, because of the volumes of connected TV sets sold around the world, the implications of connected TV – chief among which is the ability to disintermediate traditional broadcasters, or even traditional TV content – will likely be the subject of intense, and occasionally under-informed, debate at conferences focused on the TV sector7.

But the bottom line is that unless must-see content at a competitive price point is made exclusive to connected TVs, for example via a channel or portal that is only available via connected TVs, the need for connectivity in televisions is likely to remain marginal.

TV manufacturers do need to consider ways of differentiating their products. They do need ways in which to boost the often tight margins that characterize the industry. But they should also determine precisely which functionality and features customers are most likely to value.

Broadcasters, in considering which services they should offer, should keep track of the installed base of devices on which their content could be received and consumed. And they should also monitor carefully the extent to which new forms of consumption grow in popularity.

The reality of “cord cutting” in North America

Deloitte predicts that in 2013 almost all North American households that pay for TV through multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD)8 will continue to subscribe. Less than one percent of subscribers will discontinue their pay TV subscription (also known as ‘cord cutting’). That small number of cord cutters will likely be driven by a mix of: macroeconomic conditions, a perceived lack of value of pay TV, growth in over-the-top (OTT) video services and changing TV consumption habits.

This reality is likely to contrast starkly with various apocalyptic headlines suggesting imminent, significant cord cutting. These headlines will often be based on online surveys whose responses – however honest when given – do not always equate to outcomes. In one 2012 survey, 31 percent of respondents said they were either planning to or seriously considering cancelling their subscriptions, primarily because of the availability of OTT services9. Similarly, a 2011 survey found that nine percent of US customers had already cut the cord, and another 11 percent were planning to do so10.

However survey data can be wrong: reported subscriber numbers from the various MVPD providers show a net rise in subscribers in the last two years.

OTT Internet TV services and pay TV are often characterized as mutually exclusive competitors; the reality is that they are often complements11. US MVPD subscriptions were up 135,000 in the four quarters ending the third quarter of 2012, an increase of 0.1 percent12. Canadian broadcast distribution undertaking (BDU – the equivalent of MVPD in the United States) subscriptions increased by about 136,000, or 1.2 percent, in the same period13.

However, the pay TV market contains many moving parts which vary: over time, by geography and by delivery technology. Individual cable, telco or satellite providers gain and lose subscribers to each other every quarter. Individual subscribers may cancel a service, then rejoin only a few months later, either with their original provider, or another pay TV player. The focus of this Prediction is on total net subscriber numbers for all forms of pay TV.

It is important to stress that in 2013 and most likely for several years to come the North American pay TV market will be substantially different from other TV markets. What happens or fails to happen in the North American market may or may not provide lessons for other markets. Outside of North America, over-the-air (OTA) TV viewing hours are lower14 and there may be national TV license fees15. Most importantly, rates of pay TV penetration vary widely around the world: in the United States and Canada about 90 percent of homes pay for TV, whereas in EU countries the proportion is 35 to 60 percent.  In South Korea the rate almost 100 percent and in Brazil is less than 30 percent16.  But if there is no evidence of cordcutting in 2012, is there any reason to think that it could happen in 2013 or beyond? And if so, how large could it be?

Predicting pay TV subscriptions in North America is complex. Key variables include economic growth and consumer confidence17, the rate of household formation18, content deals for the forthcoming season, the propensity of some consumers to have more than one kind of pay TV service at the same time, and competition/substitution from other formats, such as OTT pure plays.

Extrapolating a view on cord cutters from this complex mix is challenging.  However, based on the most recent quarterly data from the United States and Canada, and assuming the variables have been more-or-less constant, the rate of subscriber additions has been slowing. Growth in US subscriptions was running at more than 1 percent year-over-year in 2009 and 2010, but fell to 0.1-0.2 percent in 201219. In Canada, growth was about one percent for most of 2010 and 2011, but has fallen to 0.3-0.4 percent in the most recent quarters20.

Based on the trend lines, and if there is no dramatic increase in household formation, it seems probable that the number of total pay TV subscribers could be flat, or even fall in North America in 2013. Further, some have speculated that a proportion of young people creating new households are doing so without traditional pay TV: not cord cutters, but possibly ‘cord nevers’21. The size of this group is unknown, but if significant could lead to a fall in the percentage of homes paying for TV, even if the absolute number of homes is more-or-less flat.

Still, subscribers who do not renew their subscriptions are likely to be drawn from a very narrow pool. In North America the categories of live spectator sports, news, reality TV, first run drama and comedy constitute the ‘four pillars’ of pay TV and are generally not available through third-party OTT alternatives. The proportion of households in North America with at least one family member willing to pay for TV sports is estimated to be more than 80 percent22.  Further, those who don’t watch a lot of sports tend to watch a lot of reality, news and first-run comedy and drama. Few households watch none of the categories.

In 2013, given the exclusive content ownership by MVPD and BDU distributors of the four pillars, a maximum of ten percent of North American households would contemplate cancelling pay TV, and still be able to watch the shows they really want to watch23. That is not zero, but neither is it as large a pool of potential cord cutters as most articles speculate.

Bottom Line

MVPD and BDU providers should note that the loss of a small number of subscribers may not necessarily lead to a fall in revenues or profitability: pay TV providers might be able to increase average revenue per subscriber faster than they lose (usually less profitable) cord cutters. While cord cutting surveys may generate headlines, pay TV operators should probably be more focused on the 99 percent of their customers who are likely to stay, and look to  increase average spend and design packages to please them, rather than attempting to appease the small but vocal group of subscribers who threaten to cancel – at least when answering surveys.

Further, MVPDs and BDUs have significant power to minimize cord cutting itself and to mitigate the impact of cord cutting:  they are often the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that the cancelling subscriber requires in order to access to the services of the OTT provider.

They can price a bundle of pay TV services and Internet access such that there is negligible financial incentive to cord cut, even without factoring in additional data usage due to increased streaming. One analysis across multiple operators and in certain regions found that cancelling pay TV offered savings of just $5 per month, relative to an average $90 pay TV bill24. In some cases, cord cutting could end up costing $20 more25. Aggressive pricing of bundles could help minimize cord cutting.

Second, many pay TV/ISPs expect cord cutters to increase their data consumption such that they require a bigger, more expensive data plan with faster speeds and/or more data.  If cord cutters resemble the overall TV-watching population, and have two people in a household watching 35 hours per week OTT, that would amount to in the region of 700 GB of data per month26. This increment would require most households to pay more for data and/or speed27. In this way cord cutting may be revenue neutral - and possibly even net positive - to bottom lines. Broadband services in North America tend to be higher margin since they do not have the pass through content costs of pay TV.

On the other hand, not all North Americans watch the same amount of TV: the lightest quintile watches about a fifth as much TV as the average viewer (and 90 percent less than the heaviest quintile28.) In such a household, and assuming again that they move all their TV viewing to OTT solutions, they would consume only an additional 150GB per month, an amount that in many regions may not require them to pay more for data under the most common plans.

Finally, the growth in OTT providers has benefitted content creators: OTT has been a new bidder for content rights, enhancing the value of that content. Given the very small numbers of cord cutters and cord nevers who are substituting OTT for pay TV, it seems likely that the vast majority of money made from selling content will come from the traditional broadcasters and distributors. OTT is a delightful incremental source of revenue, but unlikely to be in the same league.



1 According to analysts, connected TV sales should be in the high tens of millions in 2013; the installed base should reach into the hundreds of millions. Note that these are number for TVs with integrated connectivity. Hundreds of millions more households can readily connect their TV sets via peripherals. Sources: Smart TV Growth For 2012 Pegged At 15%, But North Americans Still Slow To Adopt, TechCrunch, 17 October 2012. See:; A fifth of TV sets connected to the Internet by 2016, Digital TV Research, 2 November 2011. See:

2 As of Q1 2012, smart TVs, which incorporate connectivity, had 20 percent market share in the UK, up from five per cent share two years previously. Source: The Communications Market 2012, Figure 2.16, Ofcom, July 2012. See:

3 One survey found that about half of connected TV sets had actually been connected. Source: Half of Internet TVs Aren't Connected, TechNewsDaily, 17 February 2012. See: Research undertaken by Ofcom in the UK found that 60 percent of those that purchased a smart TV (which incorporates connectivity) did so because “I needed a new TV and decided to buy one with the latest technology”. By contrast one fifth did so because “I liked the range of internet connected services available” and 27 percent noted that “It was nothing to do with the internet functionality of the TV”. Source: The Communications Market 2012, Ofcom, July 2012, Figure 2.17. See: These findings are echoed by others who note that purchasers of connected TV sets in the US buy a connected set because the best TVs come with connectivity, not because connectivity necessarily defines the best TVs. Source: Sure, People Will Buy ‘Connected TVs,’ But Will Anyone Actually Use Them?, paidContent, 30 August 2010. See:

4 According to one survey in the UK, about half of those with a connected TV set had connected it. Source: The year of connected TV, Page 7, Harris Interactive, June 2012. See:

5 Research undertaken in the UK published in June 2012 found that 13.5 percent of households claimed to have a connected TV set. Source: No rise in take-up of connected TVs, Broadcast, 15 June 2012. See: (requires subscription to read the full article); Research conducted by Deloitte LLP on the UK market (4,000 respondents, nationally representative) at that time found that 43 percent of households have a games console capable of accessing TV content via dedicated broadcaster channels apps. For more information, see: TV: Why? Perspectives on the UK television sector 2012, Deloitte LLP, August 2012:

6 As of 2010, according to OECD data, in 27 countries around the world, household broadband penetration had surpassed 60 percent. In these countries broadband penetration rates would likely have risen, to at least 65 percent, by January 2013. In at least half of these countries, broadband speeds should be sufficient to enable TV or movies-on-demand to connected TV sets. For more data on broadband penetration; Source: OECD Broadband Portal, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), December 2011. See:

7 For a collection of discussions on connected TV, see: Connected TV, Guardian:

8 A multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) is a service provider delivering video programming services, usually for a subscription fee (pay TV). These operators include cable television (CATV) systems, direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) providers, and wireline video providers such as competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) using IPTV. In Canada these same players are called Broadcast Distribution Undertakings (BDUs). There are just under 100 million pay TV subscriptions in the United States, and 11.5 million in Canada.

9 One survey found that that 31 percent of current mobile/connected TV viewers were either planning to cancel their pay TV service in the next year or seriously considering cancelling. Of those, 81 percent saying online over-the-top video options are the primary reason. Source: Tremor Video Study Finds Increased Mobile Video Consumption In The Home, Business Wire, 30 May 2012. See:

10 Source: Deloitte: 9% have cut cable, another 11% are considering it. GigaOM, 4 January 2012. See:


12 It is important to use a four quarter number: there is pronounced seasonality in pay TV additions and cancellations, with Q1 and Q4 being positive, and Q2 and Q3 being negative. Source: Cord-Keeping: Pay TV Shrinks for the Quarter, Stays Steady for the Year, All Things D, 7 November 2012. See:

13 BMO Capital Markets proprietary research, November 2012.

14 Less than 15 percent of North Americans get any TV from terrestrial broadcasts.

15 For example in Germany there is license fee of about €18 [$47] per month, in the UK there is a license fee of £145 [$190] per year. Source: German TV licence fee to remain stable, Rapid TV News, 18 January 2012. See:; Source: TV Licence types and costs, TV Licensing. See:; Source: Television licence, Wikipedia. See: .

16 Source: Connected-TV and pay-TV operator partnerships: Harnessing market disruption for mutual gain, informa telecoms & media. See:

17 In North America, pay TV rates have tended to drop when the economy is weak and rise when it recovers. Globally, the relationship is less clear: even during recent European economic weakness, pay TV penetration has been increasing.

18 Source: New households growing in the U.S., 7 November 2012, Business First. See:; New household formation is a complex topic. In between national censuses, it is an estimate based on smaller samples, and subject to frequent revision. Since 2008, levels of household formation have been much lower than historical rates, but seem to be accelerating in late 2012 to over 1.15 million households year-over-year, more than 70 percent higher than the average following the recession.

19 Source: Cord-Keeping: Pay TV Shrinks for the Quarter, Stays Steady for the Year, All Things D, 7 November 2012. See:

20 BMO Capital Markets proprietary research, November 2012.

21 Source: Time Warner CEO: Cord cutters not an issue, “cord nevers” might be, paidContent, 16 November 2012. See:

22 Based on interviews with multiple North American broadcasters and distributors.

23 Based on interviews with multiple North American broadcasters and distributors.

24 Source: The NPD Group: Average Monthly Pay – TV Subscription Bills May Top $200 by 2020, The NPD Group, 10 April 2012. See:; Average US pay TV bill was $86 in 2011, and assumed to grow at six percent, so over $90 in 2012.

25 Source: Cord-Cutting: Cable's Offer You Can't Refuse, The Wall Street Journal, 13 November 2012.

26 The exact amount would depend on the bit rate and the amount of shared watching. Different ISPs have different data caps, speeds, and pricing plans. Potential cord cutters may not be the “average” North American TV watcher, and therefore need or not need to pay more for data.

27 Assuming 2.5GB per hour and two people per household, requiring 1.2 Mbit/s downstream. Bandwidth requirements vary by provider. Some services have variable rate throughput, with bandwidth dynamically variable according to the speed of the broadband connection and/or the device on which video is being used.

28 Source: The Cross-Platform Report, Nielsen, 15 June 2011. See:




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