Cutting the Cord?

Two recent surveys have come to different conclusions on whether or not American consumers are abandoning cable in favor of Web-based on-demand and streaming media.

Research firm MediaBiz - working from numbers published by the major pay television providers, did some math and found that over Q1 of 2011 the cable companies and DISH had - for the most part - gained subscribers, for an overall industry-wide boost of some 517,000 subscribers nationwide.

The implication, MediaBiz suggests, is that there hasn't been the long-rumored epidemic of cord cutting some analysts have predicted (though MediaBiz's calculations don't place cable viewership in a wider universe of media consumption - they don't take into account the growth in viewership on personal computers or mobile devices).

Nielsen research, on the other hand, indicates a historic decline in TV ownership. The number of homes with a TV declined last year, from 98.9 percent to 96.7 percent, the biggest drop since 1992. The causes aren't clear - the economic downturn has had an impact, of course - but Nielsen's research also points to younger, urban consumers abandoning pay TV in favor of content available online.

Whatever happens, we'll of course be looking at plenty of new TV offerings over the coming year. Of course, more than 100 million of those might contribute to cable-cutting. And there'll be more from us next week on the tools you'll need to access even more streaming content on the Web, should you be so inclined. The year ahead should be an interesting time for the TV business, whether you've got a scissors in hand or not.

- Michael Berk