Television - Cable ties
As Americans cut the cord, Europeans sign up for more pay-TV
The biggest television drama of the past decade has been the story of how people watch it.
Ten years ago nearly nine out of ten American households subscribed to cable or satellite.
Today little more than half do.
The collapse of pay-TV, amid the advance of online streaming, has upended the television industry and forced Hollywood giants like Disney to rethink their business model.
And the pace at which consumers are “cutting the cord” from cable providers is only increasing.
But not everywhere.
On the other side of the Atlantic, cord-cutters are outnumbered by cord-knotters.
As Americans tear up their contracts, Europeans are signing up for cable and satellite in greater numbers than ever.
Pay-TV penetration in Britain will overtake that in America this year, according to Ampere Analysis, a research firm.
In France and Germany it already has.
Why has American media’s mega-trend missed Europe?
One reason is price.
America’s cable industry may look competitive: the largest player, Comcast, has only a quarter of the market.
But it is highly regionalised, so most homes have few options, says Richard Broughton of Ampere.
The result is an average monthly cable bill of nearly $100.
British homes pay less than half as much.
Tax loopholes have made pay-TV an even better deal in parts of Europe.
Take-up in France rocketed from 30% to 90% between 2004 and 2014, after the government imposed a lower rate of VAT on television services than on telecoms, unintentionally giving phone firms an incentive to throw in a cheap TV package and pay the lower rate of tax.
The loophole has been closed, but subscriptions remain high.