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A Modest Start for Cord-Cutting in the Nordics

Most viewers—especially older residents—don't plan to go digital any time soon

Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are among the most advanced digital societies on the planet—but even with the growing popularity of digital video services such as Netflix and HBO, most consumers are still loyal to traditional TV, too. That’s one conclusion of the “Nordic Video Index” report from Arkena, based on sampling carried out by Epinion.

The December 2013 survey asked whether respondents had either terminated or cut back their cable or satellite TV package in the past year in favor of online services. No more than one in 10 had done so in any country. In fact, most respondents (between 49% and 87%) said they hadn’t considered it. Resistance was especially strong in Denmark and Norway, where 85% and 87%, respectively, said they hadn’t considered paring back their traditional services. In Finland, only 49% said the same.

But did viewers plan to reduce or cancel their existing TV packages in the future? Here too there was little interest in wholesale change. Fewer than 10% of those canvassed—6% in Norway, 7% in Denmark and 8% in both Finland and Sweden—said they planned to reduce or terminate their cable or satellite subscriptions within a year. A clear majority—between 59% and 72%—had no such plans.

Desktop and laptop PCs were the most common viewing devices for those who did watch digital TV, used by 84% across the four countries. Smart and connected TVs placed second, mentioned by 43% of respondents overall. Nearly two in five (38%) of those polled used a tablet to watch digital video.

Much of the shift to digital viewing is age-related. In Denmark, for example, cable TV was still the norm for current usage, and 53% of respondents said they only watched cable TV. But there was stark variation in behavior between older residents—87% of whom said they never watched TV content online—and younger ones. In the younger group, 10% said they used only internet video services to watch TV. In Norway, 17% of younger users watched only online TV; in Sweden, the share was 15%.

Around half of respondents polled in all four countries said they expected to watch more TV online in the future. The main motivators were flexibility, the presence of more and better service providers, and the anticipation of lower prices.

Smartphone usage will also drive digital TV viewing, though this effect will take longer to emerge. Arkena found that 32% of respondents were already using a smartphone to watch TV content. And smartphone ownership remains higher among younger adults—the most eager digital TV viewers—than among older residents. In Denmark, 90% of internet users ages 15 to 29 and 81% of those 30 to 39 had at least one smartphone in May 2014, compared with just 53% of 60- to 75-year-olds, according to the “Mobile Devices 2014” report issued by Danske Medier (IAB Denmark) and Kreativitet & Kommunikation in collaboration with TNS Gallup Denmark. The same report noted that 15-to-29-year-old smartphone owners spent an average 11 minutes streaming TV or video to their phones the day before polling—more than double the time spent in 2013.

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