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Michigan cord cutting accelerates; cable customers fall 13% in 2023

 Relaxed Person At Home Watching TV. Video Streaming Concept
Cable customers fell by 13% in Michigan in 2023, but complaints about service continued to rise, according to latest records from the state’s Public Service Commission. (iStock photo by Nanci Santos)
  • Michigan cable TV companies lost 190,000 subscribers in 2023, a 13% drop
  • Since 2015, the industry has lost over 1 million subscribers as people have opted for streaming services
  • Despite the move to internet-based streaming, subscribers can expect to still see a lot of political ads in 2024

When the University of Michigan’s 2023 opening football game was scheduled to appear only on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, some fans were outraged.

And when Peacock broadcast an Ohio State football game later last season, the response was even more furious: One Ohio lawmaker threatened to pass a law making it illegal to carry public university games only on streaming services.

But services like Peacock, Hulu, AppleTV, Netflix and others are becoming the norm in Michigan as cable companies lost another 190,000 subscribers in 2023, a new report issued this month shows.

That’s a 13% drop, with cable companies losing an average of nearly 16,000 subscribers every month. It’s the biggest one-year decline since there was a 31% drop in cable subscribers in 2019.


According to an annual report issued this month by the Michigan Public Service Commission, there are now roughly 1.29 million cable subscribers statewide, down over 1 million subscribers since 2015 when 2.35 million were plugged in.


But for all the fury over content moving from that coaxial cord to the Internet, it’s become commonplace: Decades after cable television supplanted over-the-air broadcasting, streaming has overtaken cable TV. According to Nielsen, the marketing firm that measures broadcast audiences, more people were watching TV in December through streaming services than were watching via cable TV.

In December 2023, cable TV had an audience share of 28.2% compared to 35.9% for streaming. By comparison, in December 2022, cable TV’s audience share stood at 34.5% with 35% for streaming.


Political campaigns have taken note. The avalanche of political ads for this November’s election will follow onto streaming services.

Several services, including YouTube, Hulu, HMax, and Paramount+ are accepting political ads. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have said they will not accept political ads.

“Those are absolutely essential, especially when reaching new voters,” said Al Williams, a Detroit area political consultant who founded the African American Leadership Institute.

In 2022, political ad spending on streaming services was 15 times more than in 2020, according to one consultant. 

One benefit: reaching younger voters who aren’t watching traditional TV but who may be frequent viewers of channels like YouTube, experts said.


Williams said those services allow campaigns to target potential voters via their demographics and the internet address of their computer, making ads less expensive yet more effective.

“It’s not a shotgun approach, it’s more of a sniper approach,” he said. As more people move from cable TV to streaming services, those ads will continue to move toward the streaming services, Williams said.

Lansing political consultant John Sellek agreed, saying streaming ads are a key component of "sophisticated multi-platform approaches" of political campaigns that also include live phone calls and texting to targeted voters.

"Broadcast ads are still used, although they are less efficient targeting-wise, and therefore, focused on key shows that contain a desirable audience," said Sellek, CEO of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs.

Cord-cutters say they can lower their entertainment costs while picking and choosing options, rather than paying $100 or more for dozens of channels they do not watch.

While subscribers are down, complaints continue to rise: Michigan regulators received 2,183 complaints in 2023, up 67% from 2022 and more than double the average number of annual complaints (890) from 2019-21.

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