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Perhaps live sports are not as critical to pay-TV subscriptions as long believed?

According to research from Aluma, while 18% of pay-TV subscribers are moderately likely to cancel service if their favorite sport moved its live games exclusively to subscription streaming services like Netflix or Prime Video, only 8% would “definitely” cancel.

Among U.S. heads of household that selected professional football (NFL) as their favorite TV sport, 11% would definitely cancel service if it moved exclusively to a streaming service, compared with 7% of those who favor watching professional basketball (NBA) and 8% of those who favor watching professional baseball (MLB).

While responses for the NBA and MLB were in line with analyst expectations, data on those selecting the NFL as their favorite TV sport was well below, especially considering that 80% of live TV sports viewers also subscribe to at least one of the top-5 SVOD services.

“We presented this scenario to survey respondents to get a sense of how bad it could possibly get for pay TV assuming the total shift of high-value sports from broadcast and cable to streaming services could be for pay TV,” said Michael Greeson, founder and director of research at Aluma. “The findings are contrary to the dominant narrative that, without live TV sports, pay TV couldn’t survive. Perhaps live sports are less valuable to pay TV’s stickiness than we’ve long believed.”

Greeson warns that this in no way suggests MVPDs should drop live professional sports from their programming roster. That would miss the point altogether. The data suggests that there is something other than live TV sports that keeps most subscribers in place.

What might that be? The same study found complacency plays a significant role in preventing churn. One-third of those less than fully satisfied with their pay TV service continue paying for the service because they’re “just accustomed to having it,” twice the rate that said because “it’s my go to source for live TV sports.” BCS Bureau

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