Majority of Americans Have Cut Cable for First Time in History

Over half of U.S. households are unreachable by traditional advertising, Samba TV’s new report finds

Jenna Ortega in "Wednesday" (Netflix)

The majority of Americans have cut their monthly cable subscriptions for streaming services for the first time in history, a new report from Samba TV finds.

According to the findings, 48% of U.S. adults report they have a monthly cable or satellite TV subscription while a slim majority of viewers turn their attention to streaming services. Without cable, over half of U.S. households are “totally unreachable by traditional linear advertising” in a moment Samba TV CEO and co-founder Ashwin Navin calls a “critical turning point in television and viewing consumption.”

“Streaming has become ubiquitous among every age group and ad-supported streaming has gone fully mainstream with significant expansion across new platforms including industry leaders like Netflix and Disney+ entering the world of ads,” Navin said. “While the market has never been more fragmented and rife with challenges for streamers and advertisers alike, there are also unprecedented new opportunities to drive engagement and ultimately market success for those who embrace a streaming-first, data-driven mindset.”

According to the report, the reach and hours of linear television saw a seven-quarter low during 2022’s third quarter as daily linear TV viewership slid to less than half of U.S. households throughout the second half of 2022. As the reach of linear advertising declines to reach half of American households, Samba TV reports that 93% of all ad impressions only reach only 55% of American households.

Samba’s findings appear consistent with Nielsen’s report last year that streaming viewership had exceeded cable viewership.

As U.S. households shift to streaming, a majority of adults opt to cut the cost of their cable bill by subscribing to one or two streaming services, according to Samba’s report. Another trend the report found was subscription cycling, the process of signing up for a new streaming service and canceling it after viewing a specific program. The report finds that 29% of people have subscription cycled in the last six months and 69% of people plan to cycle in the next six months, with the majority of cyclers doing so as a result of only being interested in one program per streaming service. 

“A critical finding in this latest report points to the need for streaming platforms to think differently about discoverability,” Navin said. “In a streaming-first world, many consumers are at risk of abandoning streaming subscriptions because they are simply not finding anything to watch. With over two-thirds of adults planning to cycle out of their subscriptions in the next six months, streamers will need to really shift from a pure acquisition mindset to one that places retention at the forefront. Streaming platforms must look to drive deeper engagement with their full portfolio of content in order to retain their audiences beyond one tentpole program.”