Penny-pinching consumers cutting cable, cell service

Bob Patterson
Yahoo News

Generic brands, brown-bag lunches, and fewer trips to the beauty salon are three of the top ways U.S. consumers are looking to save money, according to a recent survey. Look a little further down the list, though, and you’ll find that more and more Americans are also cutting back on their cable TV and cell phone service.

A recent Harris Interactive survey found that a good 22 percent of consumers either scaled back their cable service or canceled it completely in the last six months, and an additional 21 percent gave the idea serious thought.

About 17 percent of consumers tweaked or chopped their cell phone service, the survey said. Another 17 percent kept their cell phones but nixed their landlines.

Most of those either changing or canceling their cable service—28 percent, to be exact—turn out to be Gen X’ers, or those between the ages of 34 and 45 (like yours truly). They also lead the way when it comes to cutting their cell phone plans: 21 percent told the Harris researchers they’d either changed or nixed their wireless service in the last six months.

Then again, 18- to 33-year-old “echo boomers” chopped their landlines at the same rate as the Generation X consumers did: a solid 22 percent, according to the survey.

The Harris figures come on the heels of grim quarterly results from the big cable companies, which lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers in the last quarter.

Pay-TV executives blame the poor economy for their lost subscribers, rather than viewers who are ditching their cable and satellite service for watching shows over the Internet. That said, I think it’s still safe to call it a case of “cord cutting.”

On the other hand, the number of cell phone subscribers in the U.S. continues to climb, so I’m guessing that most of the consumers polled in the Harris survey simply geared down their wireless service rather than canceling it altogether.

And it’s no secret that more and more Americans are ditching their landlines. The National Center for Health Statistics reported in May that nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households have gone all mobile, all the time.

Of course, the scientific Harris poll (which surveyed more than 3,000 consumers last month) only covered the top dozen ways in which Americans have been pinching pennies in the past several months.

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