The Internet hasn't killed cable TV (yet). Nor has Google TV. But the iPad might. A study from the Diffusion Group (TDG) claims that iPad users and intenders—that is, people who plan to buy iPads in the next few months—are more likely than regular adult broadband users to downgrade or cancel their pay TV services.
We already know cable TV is losing massive numbers of subscribers to the Internet, while the networks are fighting off an upstart rival that lets you watch live TV on your iPad. Just how bad is this for TV providers?
According to the study, a third of iPad owners are "likely" to cancel their pay TV service sometime in the next six months, and 12.9% are "highly likely" to cancel their service. In comparison, 13.5% of iPad intenders and 9.6% of average adult broadband users are likely to cancel their service. It gets even worse when the possibility of downgrading comes into play: A whopping 35.5% of iPad owners and 29.5% of intenders are to varying degrees likely to downgrade their pay TV service, compared to 20.7% of regular broadband users. For some perspective, Apple sold 4.19 million iPads last quarter.
Cable TV networks are caught between a rock and an iPad, in effect. They could try to offer subscriptions on the tablet—many of us would love to see an HBO app—but that might cause a further collapse in their cable audience. Alternatively, networks and content creators might expand their online offerings (a la Lost and Heroes) in an attempt to increase viewership. It's hard to say at this point which tactic will work—but we have a sneaking suspicion that cutting iPad user access to high-quality content won't be the best tactic in the long run.