Will Streaming Ever Replace Cable?

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    They’re going to find that binge-watching has changed things. Get Netflix for three months. Binge the crap out of it. Dump it. Pick up Disney+. Binge the crap out of it. Dump it. Pick up DC. Binge the crap out of it.

    The big gift card of the future won’t be Amazon. It’ll be a card for one of those little niche channels. “Oh, thanks! I’ll save this gift card for March as part of the buildup to WrestleMania!”Report

  2. Avatar George Turner says:

    Back in 1985 the cable company said I still owed them $14. That pissed me off, so I refused to get cable until last year when it came bundled with the apartment I rented. If you add up 33 years of cable bills (about 400 months) that’s a whole lot of money they didn’t get from me. I’d be curious to know what their demographic profile says about people like me.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Short answer: no. (And not just because of Betteridge’s law of headlines.)

    There are a surprising number of cable customers who walk into the local office and pay their bill in cash each month. TTBOMK all streaming services require a credit card. Also so far as I know, the majority of them require you to commit to paying for an extended period up front (well, Amazon Prime will let you go month by month). At the cable office, you will hear customers who are paying their bill also say, “No HBO next month, things are tight,” and the clerk takes care of it for them.

    There are a surprising number of cable customers who are happy that the cable company bundles the acquisition and user interface for all those different packages. They don’t want to work their way through figuring out which streaming service(s) they need in order to watch both the Big 10 Network and North Woods Law.

    Local advertising needs video delivery and eyeballs. The cable company makes it easy for them. Two-thirds of the eyeballs watching local over-the-air broadcasts watch it on cable or satellite because it’s easier than an antenna (and is included in the unified UI). This is not a service that a streaming company, one of whose “advantages” is no advertising, can provide.

    When I worked for <giant cable company> I was one of the few who stood up at industry conferences and said, “We can provide the best TCP/IP delivery pipe to most customers. As equipment costs fall, we can price it so that people find it meets their needs and we make a handsome profit.” Who here is paying their cable company, and how much, for the TCP/IP service that delivers their streaming content?

    Add ’em all up. Cable companies aren’t going away. Their services may change, but they’re in it for the long haul.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

      They still are losing market share. I’m not sure how bad the bleeding is these days, but it’s not nothing.

      Eventually it’ll level out to a new normal.

      Of course, cable still has to overcome a reputation of poor customer service and hard sell tactics as well.Report

      • In terms of video service, cable companies are second-level content aggregators (networks are first-level). I’m willing to bet that in ten years, the cable companies will be second-level aggregators for streaming services. It’s already started. Comcast’s set top boxes will provide access to at least Amazon Prime and Netflix streaming content as well as Comcast’s own video-on-demand service. If you are a data-only customer (above the poor folks’ service) they’ll give you a Roku-like box that will organize content from multiple streaming services. Both work with their voice-activated remote.

        To one of Merrie’s other points, things will still be bundled. “I only want Disney+’s Loki series; why do I have to pay for all that animated junk?”Report

        • The bundling is why I am not tempted to return to cable. We subscribe to three services, plus three add-ons onto Amazon. This is, in my opinion, unnecessarily excessive, but there are shows my wife wants that result in this. It is still vastly cheaper than our cable bill, back when we had a cable bill. I don’t get some football games I would like to watch, but I find myself enjoying watching the game in a bar. If we include the bar tab in the effective price I pay for viewing entertainment, that brings it up to about what I was paying for cable, but only during football season. And this way I give food and beer, too.

          As for the future new normal, my tween kids don’t watch TV much. They watch YouTube videos in vast quantities. My older just got a Nintendo Switch for her combined birthday/Christmas present. I assume that will command a huge percentage of her attention, at least until the novelty wears off. But sitting and watching a scripted TV program? That is barely in their consciousness.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    To the point regarding multiple set-top boxes and paying fees: Some cable providers have an app that runs on the Roku stick and lets you access both their video feed and your DVR box; this means you only have to buy the Roku stick instead of needing multiple set-top boxes. (You do need wifi to stream to the Roku.)Report

  5. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    I should add that my comments are directed at how content will be bundled. There’s little question but what eventually all video will be delivered over TCP/IP. Along with everything else. Cellular service is almost there already: 4G and 5G run everything — voice, video, data — over TCP/IP. Worth mentioning that TCP/IP was designed to run on all sorts of different physical layers: Ethernet, T1, DOCSIS in a cable system, carpet static,…Report

  6. Avatar Larry says:

    Hey, Merrie! Thanks for this piece. It was a good and timely read. The guys at South Park had an episode this past week that dovetails perfectly with this called “Basic Cable” that dealt with streaming. I hope you have a great Christmas! I also hope a good streaming service comes online that offers a sports/news package!Report