Yesterday, Quartz published a story titled, “Streaming’s live-TV bundles aren’t actually saving cord-cutters money compared to cable.” As you may expect that didn’t seem to make sense to me, so I started to dig around to learn more.
The short rundown of the story was it costs more to use live TV streaming services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, and DIRECTV NOW vs just getting cable TV and internet in a bundle.
The first question I had is what did Quartz use to come up with these numbers. At no point in the story did they disclose what price they used for their cable TV and internet bundle or what companies they compared streaming to.
We emailed Quartz and M Science asking if they would tell us what pricing they used to compare live TV streaming to, what cable TV companies they compared, did these prices include taxes (many streaming services do not have the same taxes cable TV has), fees, and other hidden costs. Also, was this cable TV and internet bundle Quartz said was cheaper a promotional introductory offer?
The author at Quartz was nice and quickly replied saying we needed to talk with M Science about these questions because they sent her the data. We pushed to see if we could get more details and was told again that only M Science could hand over that data.
Breaking Down the Study
M Science was kind enough to chat with Cord Cutters News on the phone. They explained that they came to these numbers by studying the merchant level spending of the average consumer. That means they looked at how much you paid on average to Comcast but did not know what you paid for. (This info from our understanding from looking data like credit card spending. It shows how much you spent at a store but not what you purchased.)
We asked point blank whether they could confirm that this spending to Comcast was for an internet plus TV bundle. M Science said they did not know what the money was paid for and could not confirm it was for a TV plus internet bundle.
According to Comcast, they have had more internet customers than TV customers since 2015. So it is likely many of these so-called TV plus internet customers are in reality cord cutters paying for internet only. (
From our understanding from our conversation with M Science, it is possible for example that my Spectrum $29.99 a month for 100 Mbps down internet only bill is included in their estimated internet plus TV cost. That is possible because my internet bill is not also tied to a Sling TV bill so all they see is a bill being paid to Spectrum so they are assuming from the best that we can tell that it is for a cable plus TV bill. (In my case this is because my home internet is paid for out of my pocket and streaming services are paid for by Cord Cutters News, LLC.)
This raises the question if I am a cord cutter and pay for internet only out of a credit card in my name but my wife pays for the streaming service in her name would my internet only bill show up in this study as a cable plus TV bill?
As best we can tell the number of live TV streamers is about 5 million (2 million with Sling TV, 1 million DIRECTV NOW, and 2 [maybe 3] million or so with the other networks). Yet there are about 20 to 25 million cord cutters/cord nevers. That means there are anywhere between 15 and 20 million internet-only customers out there who may be counted in this study as cable TV plus internet customers.
The other issue? All the people with a basic locals-only package. Many Americans, including my parents, pay Comcast and other providers over $20 a month for just SD local channels. It is possible that these customers are also included in this study.
M Science told Cord Cutters News they could not confirm they are comparing like packages. They also could not confirm that their average cost for internet and TV as listed in the Quartz story was only including people paying for TV plus internet.
There are so many factors that go into a Comcast bill. Is this for phone, internet, home security, etc. Comcast now even offers mobile phone plans that could be included with these numbers. It is very possible that for example people on payment plans making small payments to pay off a debt to the cable company are included in that number.
All M Science knows is that this is the average payment to Comcast, not what that payment was for.
What we do know is that The Wall Street Journal said back in 2016 that the average cord cutter saves $104 a month.
Update: After our phone call with M Science we sent a follow up email asking who funded this study. At this time M Science has not responded to our question about the funding behind the study.
What do you think of this report? Leave us a comment and let us know.
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