A press release from MRI-Simmons came out a couple of days ago, and several well-respected industry news sites dutifully reported its findings. Sorry, but I just don’t get it.

Here’s the lead: “The latest Cord Evolution insights reveal that roughly 31 million US consumers – 12% of the adult population – are Cord Nevers (CNs); that represents an increase over the 2017 level of 9%.” MRI-Simmons defined Cord Nevers as those who “have never paid for a traditional TV connection.”

Let’s do the math. Those numbers indicate that the total US viewing population is currently about 258 million, of which 227 million have bought pay-TV. The total US population grew by a bit more than 3 million from 2016 to 2018, so let’s say that two years ago the total viewing population was 255 million. Back then, about 232 million (91%) said they had ever paid for it. So how could there be about 5 million fewer pay-TV veterans now? Only 2.8 million Americans died in 2017. Was virtually every death a pay-TV viewer who was replaced by a young new viewer?

My guess, using only the info in the press release, is that MRI-Simmons would have been better off mentioning the margin of error in its survey using “roughly 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews”. That could account for differences in the sampled groups from 2017 and more recently. Or maybe MRI-Simmons nailed an amazing truth.

What I find funniest about this release is noting the outlets that uncritically repeated the story. Broadband TV News, Media Play News, Rapid TV News, and even Broadcasting & Cable reported the survey results without mentioning how unusual those numbers are. If every US funeral equals another Cord Never, then I’d say that ought to be the lead.

As young adults become heads of households and older adults pass away, I’m confident that there’s a true reduction in the percentage of current and former pay-TV subscribers. But I’m less confident that there were 5 million fewer of them in the past two years.