22M U.S. homes have no pay-TV service, and the number's growing, researcher says

Diffusion Group research director Michael Greeson says 22 million households go without legacy cable- and satellite-TV services, and the number is growing.

Americans are steadily drifting away from pay-TV services as bills soar, but there has been no rapid acceleration of the trend, a leading researcher said this week.

The next big test for Comcast Corp., Charter Communcations, and other pay-TV operators will be internet streaming services with live television, such as Dish's Sling or AT&T Inc.'s DirecTV Now, said Michael Greeson, director of research at the Diffusion Group, a TV and video research and advisory firm.

Greeson estimated that there are 22 million internet-only U.S. households through a combination of "cord cutters" who dropped their cable-TV service or "cord nevers," those who never signed up for it in the first place.

Many in the industry focus on millennials who aren't subscribing to pay-TV services. But Greeson said the bigger proportion of internet-only households are those who had legacy pay-TV service and dropped it.

Based on his recent research, Greeson said, he sees "no great surge in the proclivity to cancel [cable- or satellite-TV services] in the next six months. It seems more like this drip, drip, drip will continue. There's not this rush for the door because people don't perceive there to be adequate options."

He added that "if you can do without live sports and current news, a subscription on-demand service [such as Netflix] may be an adequate substitute. But I don't think most people feel that way."

Dish's Sling and AT&T's DirecTV Now offer some live television streams, Greeson noted, but he added that "very few people know about them and average Americans don't really understand how they work."