I never had cable TV until I moved into New York City after college. You needed the cable there because the big buildings interfered with the over-the-air signal. Suddenly, a new world opened up, as I had access to several more channels, including HBO.
I had more choice, and I was all for it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one either. Cable television contributed to the substantial drop in the broadcast network viewing from 1983 to 1994 when weekly broadcast audience shares dropped from 69 to 52 while basic cable networks’ shares rose from 9 to 26 during the same period according to A. C. Nielsen. What had been a 6 or 7 channel universe now had almost 40! 100 channels was a dream for down the road and today’s world over several hundred channels seemed impossible. But of course, as The Boss reminds us, there were 57 channels and nothing on.
Fast forward to today. Our T/V (television/video) choices are unlimited. The only real choice we need to make is who is going to do the programming – us or the channel’s programming department. When we do it, we can watch what we want when we choose to do so. We can binge on an entire season over a day and we probably won’t have to be interrupted by nearly as much advertising. Allowing the channel to program our viewing means that those of us who don’t choose to make a decision about programming need not. We can watch T/V as it traditionally was done – passively.
This changed environment has led to cord-cutters and cord-nevers. After all, when 75% of people just want a “light” package of channels, paying more for the hundred the cable company chooses to carry seems silly. As eMarketer predicts:
In 2015, there will be 4.9 million US households that once paid for TV services but no longer do, a jump of 10.9% over last year. And that growth will accelerate in the coming years, with the number of cord-cutting households jumping another 12.5% in 2016. In fact, by the end of next year, the number of US households subscribing to cable and satellite will drop below 100 million…Also noteworthy, the share of viewers who have never subscribed to cable or satellite (“cord-nevers”) is growing as well. This year, the percentage of US adults who have never subscribed to cable or satellite TV will reach 12.9%. That share will grow to 13.8% by 2016.
I have no doubt the cable providers will innovate – allowing you to upgrade your TV, for example, as the wireless carriers do your phone, bundling in streaming music, or changing their business emphasis entirely to being broadband providers (BYO Programming!). But it’s going to be an interesting transition in the pro-choice video world. You agree?