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Cable news SVOD subscribers may look little like traditional viewers

Over the past five years, Kagan Consumer Insights survey results have documented the drop of traditional multichannel TV households — from 79% in 2017 to 65% in 2021 — while the percentage of internet households subscribing to an online video service has grown from 65% to 83% over the same period. As a result, online versions of many cable TV networks have been launched in recent years, including such familiar brands as Discovery+, AMC+, Disney+ and ESPN+.

Fox Nation, the online subscription video service operated by Fox News, was launched in late 2018. Results from the Kagan third-quarter 2021 U.S. Consumer Insights survey show that approximately 5% of internet households are currently using Fox Nation. In addition to news, Fox Nation offers a wide variety of daily TV programming, documentaries and movies. While many details of the CNN+ service have yet to be announced, numerous high-profile names from the news industry and Hollywood have already signed on to host shows.

Back in 2018, Kagan conducted a survey to determine how Americans received their news. The survey found that, at the time, one-third (33%) of U.S. internet adults said they viewed cable news, of which 41% reported viewing Fox News and 29% viewed CNN. Viewership of both cable news networks skewed heavily toward older adults. Over half (53%) of Fox News viewers were baby boomers or seniors, aged 53 and above, and nearly four out of 10 (38%) CNN viewers fell into the same generational age category. Since 2018, viewership of cable news has declined, but the overall age distribution has probably not changed that much.

But the Kagan third quarter 2021 U.S. Consumer Insights survey, paints a very different picture of Fox Nation viewers. For example, the survey data shows that Fox Nation viewers are predominantly young adults, with over half (52%) being millennials, ages 25-40. Only 19% of current Fox Nation viewers are baby boomers or seniors, 56 years of age and older.

Rather than attracting new viewers, the survey found that nearly nine in 10 (87%) Fox Nation viewers also subscribe to a pay TV service and presumably watch the Fox News cable channel. Over two-thirds (68%) of Fox Nation viewers are price-insensitive SVOD buyers that will subscribe to whatever services they want to watch regardless of the price. As a result, Fox Nation viewers use an average of five SVOD services compared to a national average of three SVOD services. Like most younger adults, Fox Nation viewers tend to spend less time per day watching TV/video but spend more time watching online TV/video content than the average internet adult.

While some behaviors/demographics differed, the survey found that Fox Nation viewers are similar to the historic Fox News audience in terms of gender, education, income and population center size. For example, over two-thirds of Fox Nation viewers are college-educated men, predominantly living in urban or suburban metro areas. The income distribution for Fox Nation viewers tends to be fairly evenly distributed, with one-third (32%) high-income earners. And while historic CNN viewership also tends to be skewed toward urban, college-educated individuals, with a fairly even gender split, there is a higher percentage of low-income households among CNN users than for Fox News or Fox Nation.

The major takeaways from the survey data are that, at least initially, we can expect CNN+ to attract young adult subscribers from its existing base of cable news viewers who are willing to add new SVOD services without regard to price. This first wave of subscribers will most likely mirror the demographics of existing CNN cable news viewers, other than age. The challenge for both Fox Nation and CNN+ will be how, in the future, to attract subscribers who do not subscribe to a pay TV service, as well as older adults who are more budget-conscious when adding new SVOD subscriptions. S&P Global

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