While lots of media attention has focused on cord-cutters — people who completely drop cable — the real threat to pay television may be cord-shavers, customers who opt for cheap, limited channel packages.
This has led to some of the most popular networks, including Walt Disney‘s  (NYSE: DIS  ) ESPN, Time Warner‘s  (NYSE: TWX  ) TNT and TBS, and Comcast‘s  (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) USA Network losing viewers at a far greater rate than the overall slight decline in homes with cable. Over the past four years, the 40 most widely distributed channels in 2010 lost an average of 3.2 million subscribers, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
A small percentage of that is due to cord-cutting, but the number of homes that have cable did not drop in 2011 or 2012. That total fell for the first time ever in 2013, according to research firm SNL Kagan. The loss, however, was only around 250,000, according to Bloomberg so it’s only a drop in the bucket of the 3.2 million subscribers lost on average by each of the top channels.   The real issue is customers who keep a basic cable package — one that offers little more than the broadcast networks, public access channels, and a smattering of other choices — and turn to digital services as a substitute for pricey higher-end pay TV offerings.
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