Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 02-08-2011

Cable TV in the U.S. continues to haemorrhage subscribers quarter after quarter, but MSOs have been blaming this on the ongoing economic softness. Not entirely true, says SNL Kagan, whose researchers are raising the 'Netflix spectre' - consumers really are cutting the cord and embracing online streaming video, the firm says.

There has been ongoing debate as to whether video cord-cutting is real, and SNL Kagan says it is. The analyst firm expects 12.1 million homes in 2015 to cancel their pay-TV subscriptions in favour of web video services like Netflix. That's the equivalent of a full 10% of all households.

The growth will be slow and steady, however.

About 86% of all homes subscribed to pay TV in 2009, and that dropped to 84.9% last year. In 2010, 2.5 million cut the cord. This year, 4.5 million are expected to walk away from traditional broadcast. When it comes to new subscriber additions, "the pace is not expected to keep up with occupied household formation," SNL Kagan said.

Still, it's important to keep things in perspective. Cable TV will remain the dominant form of television service for at least the next decade, and the erosion of the subscriber base in favour of online TV will continue to be sluggish even beyond 2015. IPTV and satellite will continue to be greater threats than Netflix when it comes to churn. And any loss to online video can be made up on the broadband side of its business, where more and more cable companies are implementing data caps and tiered billing to accomodate rising online video traffic.