There are So Many Streaming Options Cable is Starting to Look Good
“I don’t even have a TV,” my friend said to me after I asked about the Superbowl.
This is a common trend among young adults, but it doesn’t mean they’re not watching TV programs. Streaming had taken over. This means a 13-inch laptops have replaced the 60-inch flat screens we fight over on Black Friday. The rise in streaming services has given us access to on-demand content like never before. This seems like a good thing, but services that were once cost-effective alternates to cable are now weighing more heavily on the wallet.
It all started with Netflix. Perhaps not the first streaming service, but they changed the climate of television with their on-demand services. Their main competitor in the streaming world was Hulu, then Amazon Prime to a lesser degree. Once these services started providing original content, customers started flocking to streaming and cutting the cord.
Streaming has become the future of content consumption, but TV streaming services have started to mimic the cable networks they sought to replace. Many shows are cutting ties with one service to stream exclusively on a different service. The prime example: Friends. The show is undoubtedly one of the most popular of all times, and Netflix spent $100 million to keep the show for 2019. Now, the show is moving to HBO Max (or one of the channels included in the upcoming bundle) in a move that cost $425 million for five years of exclusive streaming.
Can Streaming Win?
The streaming model can be profitable, and if we look at the music industry we see an industry recovering due to the existence of streaming. The music industry was seriously hurt by piracy, but streaming monetized the process of gaining unlimited access to music. Though physical sales can generate a greater profit for record labels, the impact of piracy was so extreme that record labels needed to rely on the reduced monetization of streaming to survive. But there’s one thing that separates the streaming of music and television: unlimited access. With music, you can get access to almost any song on either Spotify or Apple Music. There are only a few streaming hold outs and very few albums exclusive to specific services. Television streaming is the opposite. Each service has its own catalogue and exclusive content is normal. This makes the need for multiple accounts necessary if you want to get all of your favorite shows.
Friends demonstrates a problem that has been happening on streaming services for years now. A show will be available on one service then switch to another. Being a staple of pop culture, Friends is making headlines, but it’s not the only show jumping ship. I personally fell victim to this about five years ago when I started watching 30 Rock on Netflix. Midway through season 2 it was gone and I needed Hulu to continue. As streaming increases in popularity, more shows will be moving around. This means customers are more likely to need to look into multiple streaming options to get the content they want.
Now, more streaming services are trying to get into the game. It’s not small companies like Hulu and Netflix were at the start. Now, it’s major brands. Apple, Disney, and HBO trying to capitalize on their existing audiences. This makes streaming a pricey business to get into. If a customer wants all three of these new services, they’re looking at roughly $32/month. That’s on top of paying at least $9 for Netflix, $6 for Hulu, and the yearly $119 for Amazon Prime. Keep in mind, all of these services require an internet connection which has its own price tag each month.
Streaming also differs from cable in the sense that you’re not locked into a rate. While many cable providers will honor the package you’ve signed up for, all Netflix subscribers were subject to their January 2019 price hike ($1 or $2/month, depending on plan). This means each change is going to instantly impact your experience. It also means you’re free to leave whenever you see fit.
People flocked to streaming because the convenience was undeniable and the price was great. Convenience and cost effectiveness are still there, but the market is changing and it’s not benefiting the customer.
Can Cable Make a Comeback?
This decade has been hard to cable providers. There’s no denying the decline in cable subscribers, with over 10 million American households cutting the cord. The later part of the decade is getting increasingly hard. In the last quarter of 2018, an estimated 1.1 million cut their cords. This shows cable subscribers are on the decline and this trend will accelerate unless something changes.
Well, changes are coming, and the cable companies may not need to do anything. As more streaming services start to pop up, one subscription well get you less. Netflix is also changing the flow of episode debuts. Rather than release an entire season at once, some shows will start having weekly releases of shows. You know, like cable networks do it.
If these changes are an indication of trends to come, it seems like streaming services are going to mimic cable in terms of cost and release schedule. You’ll need to create your own package of streaming services to get all of the shows you want, and binge watching will require you to wait weeks to watch the entire season. Content consumptions is getting more costly and will require more patience.
These changes start to diminish the benefits streaming once held. Meanwhile, cable networks are fighting to compete with streaming services. So if you still have cable, you can likely go onto network sites and stream recent content. Almost all networks offer some from of streaming when you can prove your credentials as a cable subscriber. We’ve reach a point in time when live TV isn’t necessary unless you’re desperate to avoid spoilers. DVR is pretty standard, but not even required. If you’re trying to watch current network programming, your provider will give you a way.
You can shop around for cable packages. If you have a specific show or channel you require, there’s a package for you. Whether you want it or not, you’re going to get your desired channels with 20–200 more. Plus, cable and often to bundled with other services. Use Verizon, Comcast, or Cox? You can get your cable and internet bundled together. You know, the Internet you need to stream.
Still, the numbers don’t lie. Cable is on the decline. Even with some changes in the streaming world, people are quitting cable at an alarming rate. Streaming is changing because they know they’re be around for a little while longer. Network television is changing because they are trying to cling onto their customers.
Is the Customer the Winner?
The concept of streaming seems great when I look at the music model. Subscribe to Spotify, you get it all. It doesn’t look so great when I look at the TV model. Subscribe to Netflix, you get some original content and a bunch of older TV shows. By comparison the TV model isn’t as good, but it’s still more affordable than our options a decade or two ago. The monthly cost of a basic Hulu plan is about the same cost as a movie rental at Blockbuster. Renting Lilo & Stitch in 2003 for a weekend is as affordable as getting a month of access to Disney’s entire streaming catalogue for a month. I will gladly take the modern options.
Streaming really succeeds at replacing DVDs and the on-demand media of yesteryear. Remember, Netflix began as a mail-in DVD rental service. Netflix subscriptions have largely contributed to the death of video rental stores like Blockbuster, but now cable is feeling the pressure. While the impact can be felt, unsubscribing from cable means compromise for the customer. A significant amount will be lost when cable is gone.
If the music industry has taught us anything, the customer will not lose. If streaming services push too far, piracy will look like a desirable alternative. I am not advocating for people to pirate content, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the option existed. Once customers have internet connections strong enough to stream Netflix, they have connections strong enough to stream movies illegally from sketchysite.nz.
The climate of streaming is changing, and cable networks will need to fight to keep up. While I don’t see traditional cable rebounding, this could be an interesting time for internet-based cable services. DirectTV Now, Hulu Plus, YouTube TV, Sling, and Philos are offering access to live TV and online catalogues from cable networks.
Ultimately, customers have more options than ever before. We will be getting more streaming services, more bundles, and less ownership than ever before. In the end, this is all influenced by consumer behaviors. I can’t be mad at that, but when I can subscribe to a internet-base cable service I have to wonder if that Apple TV Plus subscription is really the best option.