Local content, sports bringing some cord-cutters back to cable, survey says

One in four American households that ditch cable or satellite service for cheaper streaming options signed up for a traditional pay TV provider after cutting the cord, according to a new survey published by TiVo this week.

The survey found the majority of so-called "cord-revivers" are likely to live in California or New York, with one-third of households saying they signed up for cable or satellite service because they couldn't get the entertainment they wanted from a cheaper streaming service.

More than 4,500 individuals participated in the survey conducted by TiVo last year. They hailed from the United States and Canada, and all participants were over the age of 18, the company said.

The report illustrates the challenge television viewers sometimes have when they expect to find similar content on streaming services that they would on cable or satellite, despite the growing number of live and on-demand streaming options on the market.

That challenge tends to be greater with households that want access to local programming and sports, with 84% of those surveyed saying they want that type of content but struggle to find it offered on streaming services compared to cable or satellite.

Over the last few years, some local television stations and regional sports channels have been offered on streaming services that deliver the same live cable and satellite networks over the Internet. TiVo said the most popular of these services are the Walt Disney Company's Hulu with Live TV, DirecTV Stream, Dish Network's Sling TV, Alphabet's YouTube TV and sports-centric Fubo TV.

But none of these services contained a full lineup of every broadcast channel in a region. In markets like New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, independent stations and affiliates of smaller networks that produce the most local news content in a week are not carried on any of the top five streaming pay TV providers cited by TiVo, according to a review of provider channel listings.

Getting access to regional sports channels can also be a tough proposition for cord-cutters: The channels are widely available on cable providers, but can be difficult to find on streaming services. Some streamers, like Sling TV, initially offered certain regional sports networks only to drop them later on, citing higher programming costs associated with carrying the networks and low overall viewership among its subscribers.

Twenty-nine percent of people who switched back to cable or satellite from streaming said they did so because traditional pay television was the best way to watch live sports. Another 29% said cable or satellite was the best way to watch live events like the Super Bowl, and 28% asserted it was the best way to access local television content, TiVo's report said.

Nearly half of those surveyed by TiVo who switched back to cable identified as young TV viewers — either millennials (those born between the early-1980s and mid-1990s) or members of Generation Z (born between mid-1990s and early 2010s).

Those who stuck with streaming still favored online pay TV services like DirecTV Stream or Hulu with Live TV in order to access live TV content. Only one in 10 people surveyed by TiVo said they used an antenna to watch live TV, and 3% said they simply didn't watch live TV anymore.