Are seniors likely to cut the cable cord?

An MTM report shows how this non-digitally native Anglophone Canadian demo has responded to technology in its media consumption.

We know millennials aren’t always satisfied with the cost and programmed nature of linear TV but is their disaffection for the medium’s traditional face having a domino effect on older generations? The answer, if you haven’t already guessed it, is no.

How do seniors engage with media and technology? This question, and more, was at the heart of a study conducted by Media Technology Monitor at the close of 2015. According to MTM survey data, the demo makes up 11% of the adult Anglophone market.

The research body has now released its findings from the study, titled “A Profile of Seniors’ Media Technology Adoption and Use.”

The results show that seniors are willing to pay for content, with most ready to pay for TV subscriptions and unlikely to cut the cord. According to the survey, 56% of seniors have a cable connection compared to 41% across all other demos (see chart below). They are 37% more likely to opt for a paid television service. Moreover, over 81% say that they are either not “not at all likely” or “not very likely” to cancel their television subscription. And over the last 12 months only 11% have made their subscription package lighter compared to 22% across all other demos.


The senior generation grew up during two major events, the Great Depression and the Second World War, which, the report states, had a lasting impact on their choices. Since 88% of them are retired, most seniors report having more time on their hands to engage with media but also most constrained spending budgets. The largest chunk of seniors (27%) live under the $35,000 annual income mark, with the next biggest group (25%) living on a $35,000 to $75,000 income. Only 8% are in the $100,000 plus income bracket.

Television, radio and newspapers still rule for seniors residing in Anglophone Canada, who spend, on average, 22 hours per week watching TV and 12 hours per week listening to radio. About six in seven seniors tune in to TV on a traditional TV set. More than half subscribe to a newspaper. But they’re not closed to new technology, preferring tablets to smartphones. About 30% of seniors own a tablet preferring its larger screen size to the smartphone and their generation is responsible for a 45% increase in tablet ownership in its demo in 2015.

Only 23% of seniors have smartphones and many report not using most of the smartphone’s functionalities. Some 36% use regular phones.

Seniors aren’t as attached to the internet as other demos. Most of them don’t text or use their phones to send or receive emails. About 48% are connected to the internet via their phones, compared to 86% across other Anglophone demos. In the past month 27% went on to use Facebook, compared with 70% across the rest of English Canada. When they do use social networks, its most likely to be on their desktops or laptops.

This group is also less keen on using online video, online audio or subscribing to video services like Netflix. They’re also not big on Skype or other kinds of video calling services.

Results for the report, which counts seniors as Canadian residents older than 70 years, were collected using a mixed-methodology approach involving a phone survey and a follow-up online survey. Data was collected during MTM’s Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 survey collection.