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Not too long ago, experts predicted the downfall of cable – a $95 billion industry!
For as long as we’ve known, cable TV has been the very source of our entertainment. But you know what they say, the inevitable eventually finds its way. The death of cable TV isn’t as graphic as your mind is assuming it to be. Yes, it is a slow one, but let us assure you that it’s not going to be painful – phew!
Think of the Human Evolution. Almost 300,000 years ago, Neanderthals evolved into Homo Sapiens so they could adapt better to the altering environment. Likewise, cable TV is undergoing its evolution, so viewers could enjoy a better version of it.
Just look around for a second.
What do you get with newer offerings such as YouTube TV, Hulu+ Live, or fuboTV? Live streaming TV of course! And what does the channel lineup include? Popular broadcast and Cable networks! There you go – is this is not the evolution of Cable then? Good enough reason for people to cut the cord, invest in a good internet connection, and resort to these streaming platforms for entertainment.
Cable TV was at its peak in the U.S. in 2000, with the highest number of subscribers. But by 2010 experts were already observing a consistent dip in the number. A big chunk of the blame was laid upon the aftermath of the 2007-2009 Great Recession. It was said hoards of pay-tv households could no longer afford a monthly subscription. Albeit, the more foresighted observers argued the decline in Cable’s popularity was linked to the unstoppable growth of the internet, and the introduction of OTT on-demand offerings in the mainstream market.
By 2014, the number of cord-cutters had increased substantially. Netflix had surpassed the number of Comcast video subscribers, becoming the biggest video subscription company in North America. And its popularity did not show any sign of waning. Cable TV service providers knew there was a new challenge lying ahead, as a massive number of subscribers continued to move toward OTT streaming services.
According to a more recent Forbes estimate, another 27% of U.S. households are likely to ditch their Cable TV service in 2021. While eMarketer speculates there will be over 55 million cord-cutters in the US only by 2022. Albeit many observers argue we may see cord-cutting numbers beginning to level off sooner than later. Well, even if that turns to be true, “damage” already done to the Cable TV service industry is unlikely to be undone. Or shall we say the process of evolution that commenced about a decade or so ago shall not come to halt?
From the 1970s to the 1980s, cable TV witnessed a massive growth in popularity. The number of subscribers catapulted. New cable networks came forth and transformed the cable TV industry into the one today – worth of billions of dollars. Today, there are about 1775 TV stations reaching millions of households across the U.S., and 5200 cable systems run by over 650 operators with access to 90% population. And, standing here, witnessing the slow but certain downfall of cable TV makes us wonder about a few things.
What could’ve possibly driven millions of subscribers to cut the cord?
There came along a gang of new ‘cool kids’ on the block and they weren’t afraid to compete with the entire cable TV industry. Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and others have been giving traditional pay-tv a run for its money.
Let’s pick Netflix for instance. Netflix is the biggest on-demand streaming platform in the world. According to the company, Netflix has over 214 million users across the world. In 2019, Netflix users spent approximately 164 million hours watching the content. On the other hand, cable TV subscribers had come down to 34 million in 2016. The numbers saw a further decline this year. This confirms our hunch: streaming TV is the biggest reason why cable TV has lost subscribers in millions. After all, we don’t have nearly 300 OTT streaming services in the U.S. competing for consumers’ favor without a reason!
Gen-X loves old-school Cable TV because that is familiar. Everyone knows how it works. Turn it on, surf channels, sit through the ads, and live TV with the decades’ old broadcasting schedule. Sure Cable TV is great!
But, you know what is greater? The intuition of an OTT video platform. To know that you can skip the ads. Search and play content you want to watch. Rewind, forward or pause. Above all, watch on your own schedule!
Unfortunately, until push came to shove and Cable TV services invested in a techy facelift to make possible the delivery of nearly as intuitive an experience as streaming, “the gang of many new cool kids on the block” had bagged Gen-Z!
Streaming services win at accessibility. The fact you can stream a show on your phone and watch it anywhere you want is no less than bliss. Old school Cable TV is not that flexible. Without a cord, your cable TV service won’t work. That is if you are still running your in-home entertainment via CableCard.
All major Cable TV service providers like Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox Communications, and Mediacom Cable now offer the TV Everywhere feature. This means you can watch your favorites via the web on your PC or an app on your smartphone. All you need is your provider credentials and a reliable Wi-Fi connection to tune into live TV away from your home screen. But, such innovative Cable TV offerings and the variety of service features and equipment you are able to get today were not as mainstream during all those years when celebrated SVOD services like Netflix were busy reshaping viewer habits and preferences.
Perhaps more than flexibility and ease, streaming has been made popular by the fact it allows an affordable way of accessing TV entertainment. As long as one or two SVOD services fulfil your thirst for entertainment, and a digital antenna keeps you in the loop of local broadcast TV, you do not really have to put up with Cable price hikes.
Plus there are no pesky annual contracts taking you hostage with SVOD. You pay month-to-month. You can quit and switch anytime because you aren’t bound by an upfront early termination fee. And most importantly, you enjoy this peace of mind there are no unwanted channels sitting at the back of the lineup, eating up your precious dollars.
So, the bottom line is video streaming is convenient and can be much cheaper. Even if you make a combo of an SVOD service like Netflix with live streaming TV like YouTube TV, in the end, this may be less of a burden on your budget. The internet you need to run your in-home streaming cinema is anyways a necessity. Perhaps you’ll have to invest in an upgraded speed and data plan. But the no installment, not a set-top box, and no equipment rental fee scenario that you enjoy with streaming TV really makes it a prudent choice. Plus unlike old school Cable, it allows you control over what you want to watch, when you want to watch, and how you want to watch.
Besides, there’s another factor that added to the popularity of video streaming platforms in more recent times – the pandemic.
The pandemic got the best of us. The stress, the anxiety – let’s face it, all of us were desperate to escape to less stressful “places”. Because of the lockdown, a huge number of people spent – or killed – their time streaming videos. Some watched DIY videos. Some searched for new brands and products. While some caught up on news. Viewers were able to fully control the content they wanted to watch.
All credit goes to high-speed internet, which helped social media and OTT video streaming platforms stay afloat. And this brings us back to our opening argument. It was the sharp growth of the internet that kicked off the rise of OTT streaming, which in turn came to reshape how people want to access video entertainment today.
Here are some telling video streaming trends:
A quick recap.
We have talked about the fast decline in the popularity of cable TV, essentially because of how OTT video streaming services have reshaped viewer habits. Pay-tv has lost subscriptions at an alarming rate. In 2020, some of the USA’s top providers experienced a net loss of about 4.8 million subscribers. Although the number was lesser than the 5.1 million subscriber-loss in 2019, it was a loss nonetheless. And according to Leichtman Research Group in Q1 2021, the largest pay-tv providers holding about 95% of the market share, lost about 1.8 million subscribers. Again, it is a significant loss, though less than over 1.9 million in the preceding year.
What is remarkable though is even after all the dips in numbers that cable TV has seen so far, it does not look like the final blow is imminent. As of March 2021, approximately 74 million American households still have Cable.
One of the biggest reasons people are choosing to keep a cable TV subscription is watching live content especially sports. Another reason is cable TV service providers now offer you innovative ways of watching TV which make the viewing experience as flexible, mobile, and convenient as with a streaming service. Plus cable service providers offer bundling options that help save when you package TV and internet. Whereas live streaming services are much more expensive than on-demand streaming and no cheaper than a starting cable lineup. So when the budget is an issue, and live content is a can’t-miss for you Cable wins.
As long as cable TV service providers stay abreast of the evolving viewer habits, and continue to offer customers a chance to earn savings with TV and internet bundles, Cable is likely to carry a lingering appeal.
Since we’re talking about the bundles, let’s see what options are there in the market. And figure out, if these options could keep the cable TV surviving for a tad bit longer. Looks like some providers will do anything to keep Cable TV from fading away.
While video streaming has transformed the way we watch TV, cable service providers in the U.S. are definitely making the effort to keep cable TV afloat by adapting services and products to new consumer preferences. And this drive to catch on to the ongoing trend of mass digitization may just help Cable TV services linger for a little longer.
If you are not yet a convinced cord-cutter, and looking for a better cable TV service for your home, contact professionals at 1-855-349-9328 to see what is available at your address and how would it fare against live or on-demand streaming option(s).
Experts have predicted by the end of 2025, another 25 million viewers will get rid of their cable TV service subscriptions and shift to OTT video streaming. Since 2012 an estimated 25 million have already cut the cord.
OTT video streaming platforms whether live or on demand are already popular alternatives for Cable TV watchers. Also, broadcast and cable TV networks delivered over Internet Protocol (IPTV) may come to fill in the gap created by phasing out Cable TV services in the U.S..
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