The Early Warning System Is Going Off

There’s always a scene in movies about some epic disaster during which an early warning system goes off.  A young scientist believes a comet will hit the Earth but the older scientists tell him he’s nuts.  A tsunami monitor goes off when there are calm seas and the woman watching it disregards the information.  You know the drill.  As the audience, we know that disaster is coming but those who have the information are blissfully unaware until disaster strikes.millennials-broadcast

I thought of that as I read a couple of articles the other day.  The first is from the good folks at Poynter who reported on some research the NY Times did.  Quite an eye-catching headline:

Thirty-four percent of millennials surveyed watch mostly online video or no broadcast television, new research from The New York Times says.

Now granted, the study was among 4,000 current users of online video so one could argue, like the woman watching the calm sea, that the sample is skewed.  The again, given the high percentage of young folks that are online video watchers, I’d listen.  After all, cord cutting is no longer dismissed as the rantings of some early adopter lunatics.  There are numbers that prove it’s for real, especially since we’re not talking about “cord-nevers” – young people who never had cable TV – just a broadband connection for streaming.  As one report had it:

While 3.2 million new U.S. households were set up in the last three years, the paid-TV industry only added 250,000 subscriptions in that same period.

Not so good.  And if that’s not a loud enough alarm, here comes the near-miss fireball from out of the sky that gets everyone’s attention, courtesy of our neighbors in the Great White North:

The Canadian government will soon require cable and satellite television providers to make it easier for customers to buy only the channels they want rather than pay for bundles, the country’s industry minister said on Sunday.

“We don’t think it’s right for Canadians to have to pay for bundled television channels that they don’t watch. We want to unbundle television channels and allow Canadians to pick and pay the specific television channels that they want”

Sound familiar?  It should, since it’s the same fight that’s been brewing here for several years and which intensifies each time your cable or satellite bill goes up.  Cable executive are rightly scared that their penetration into the household base will fall, making subscriber revenues drop and ad sales impossible.

Young people tuning out in droves.  The fundamental business model under attack.  Have we reached the end of the TV world?  Not yet.  But in my mind the early warning systems are howling.  What do you think?

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1 Comment

Filed under digital media, Reality checks

One response to “The Early Warning System Is Going Off

  1. You know, now seems like a good time to add Rutgers and Maryland to the B1G precisely so the Big Ten Network can charge higher per-household rates in NYC and DC DMAs for people who will NOT watch Rutgers and Maryland. How long can this business model last? The pay TV lobbies are powerful, but technology is undercutting them at every turn.

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