Change is hard, and when it’s forced upon you by circumstances beyond your control, it’s even harder. That’s the ongoing situation in the television business, both on the distribution side and on the content provider side (read that as cable/satellite providers and programming services).
Showtime recently began offing a streaming-only subscriber service, and, as reported in the piece in Adweek, they’re learning a lot from the experience. More about that in a second, but the fact that the Showtime folks are even doing this at all gets a round of applause from me. Too many of my friends in broadcasting (cable-casting, whatever you might call it) are fixated with the traditional (dying) business model. They seem bound and determined to milk every last cent out of it before changing their ways (reality check = music business). All this while the 13 largest pay-TV providers in the US, which account for approximately 95% of the market, saw a net loss of 470,855 subscribers in Q2 2015—the worst quarterly drop ever. Now is the time to be trying new things and finding new ways of doing business, not when the drip of cord cutters becomes a flood.
Here is a quote from the article that got my attention:
Showtime Networks President David Nevins has been receiving detailed, data-fueled reports about its growth and usage each day. Having long been limited to getting monthly reports about subscriber trends for the premium cable network, he now browses detailed updates each morning, learning how many subscriptions were sold and what the service’s usage looks like.
While you might wonder why they weren’t looking at usage reports before, the reality is that there was little incentive to do so. The network stuck their deals with service providers – the cable distributors were their customers, not “civilians.” While they are no longer being separated from their users by a middleman, they’re also having to learn a lot about those users, which wasn’t an imperative before. That transition, by the way, is probably one of the biggest impacts of digital – the disintermediation effect on many businesses.
“You can see on a nightly basis exactly what people are watching, and it’s fascinating.” Anyone in business needs to know what our customers are consuming, as well as how and why they’re doing so. Moreover, we need to be open to changing how we do business, better to serve both those customers and our bottom lines. Showtime has been. You?