A new report predicts that cord cutting is poised to gain momentum, buoyed by the growing choices and ease of use of online video streaming services, like Netflix.
"This is a time of significant transformational change in the traditional TV service market here in Canada," says report co-author and International Data Corporation (IDC) analyst Emily Taylor.
The IDC report projects that the number of Canadians opting for traditional television services like cable and satellite will drop by about half a million to 11.3 million subscribers by 2019.
The marketing research company also estimates revenue from those same services will decline by 7.8 per cent over the next five years to $8.3 billion.
Taylor says many defectors will be lured away by streaming services which, over time, have become more user friendly. She points to tools like Apple TV or Roku video streaming devices, which have made it simple for even technically challenged folk to streamline their online video selections.
"We have those [products] that you can buy anywhere and make it super easy to cast content and get content to the big screen and certainly that's compelling for many consumers," she says.
Cutting the cord gets easy
It's compelling enough for the Devine family in Burlington, Ont. With the help of a tech help service, Kutco Canada, Chris and Aleksandra Devine have just set up a Roku device along with Apple TV. Now they can seamlessly stream a dizzying amount of content onto their big screen TV.
"I can see myself getting rid of cable pretty quick. Because everything that I want to watch is on here and a lot more," says Chris as he checks out the myriad of offerings from streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Hulu.
His wife asks Chris to show her how to access the last episode of the TV series The Bachelorette. He clicks a few buttons on his remote and suddenly the episode plays on the big screen.
"Great, that's pretty easy. Even I can do that," an excited Aleksandra says.
After viewing their options, the Devines soon make a decision to cancel their cable.
Chris says by switching to streaming services, they will cut their viewing costs by about two thirds and be able to cherry pick what they want to watch.
"We are going to save money and we are going to have way more choice," he concludes.
More choice without borders
Taylor with IDC says the growing selection of streaming content is another reason viewers are jumping ship from traditional TV. Netflix continues to offer notable, original shows such as House of Cards. Plus Canadian streaming services Shomi and CraveTV will soon be available to all Canadian viewers.
"It's getting a bit busy," she says.
The consumer analyst also points to the U.S. market, which offers a plethora of services including recent additions HBO Now, CBS All Access and Comcast's Stream.
"It's hard to ignore some of that when we're so close to the U.S.," says Taylor.
So much so, many Canadians are defying geographical restrictions and accessing U.S. content, giving them even more choice. Taylor says that's aided by un-blocking devices that are making it easier for viewers to hop over virtual borders.
"You can easily access it inexpensively, maybe even free," she explains. Even though border hopping goes against the policies of many streaming services, it appears viewers have yet to experience any real repercussions.
Back in Burlington, the Devines will pay $5 a month for a service that will allow them to seamlessly jump those virtual borders.
"Everything that we always wanted is on there," says a contented Chris. "It's the next wave and I think the cable companies really need to wake up a bit. There is so much out there to watch that I think a lot of people will be [cutting the cord]."
Still, no mass exodus
Taylor acknowledges that streaming video is a real threat to traditional TV but she adds that conventional services will still continue to dominate the marketplace. "It's not going to be a mass exodus," she explains.
Media expert Gregory Taylor (no relation) agrees. "The data at this point is simply not there to back up the idea that there is a mass cord-cutting movement that is happening in Canada," says the university of Calgary professor.
While the Devines have taken the plunge and transformed the way they watch TV, many Canadians still enjoy tuning in to comfortable, conventional, and habitual services like cable.
So, for now, instead of a battle of attrition, it's simply becoming a more crowded marketplace. And traditional TV will have to make room for the new kid on the block. "They just have to recognize they're not the only game in town anymore," says professor Taylor.
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