There is little doubt that traditional television is in decline. This is caused by a combination of factors. The most important of these factors are the always-rising cost of cable and satellite services, the fact that millennials have never been as addicted to television as their parents and grandparents, and the rise of internet streaming.
Cable TV is having its worst year ever. Yet cable TV revenues are still rising because companies are charging the dwindling number of subscribers more in fees. Even to addicted-television viewers, the economic numbers just aren’t making sense any more. Satellite and cable providers are giving viewers hundreds or stations, but almost everyone realizes that they watch only a fraction of those channels.
Time and Place Shifting
Even the oldest of television viewers realize that the days of gathering round the TV to watch their favorite shows are over. Millennials don’t often sit in front of a TV. They love flexibility. They like to control when, where, and how they watch their favorite shows. Cable and satellite television programming doesn’t provide this, but streaming does. So many younger folks do not own a television at all. They have turned to viewing everything online without the benefit of a large screen TV. So led by the millennials, traditional TV viewing is declining while online viewing is skyrocketing.
The Big Shift
The big screen television screen is not disappearing. It will be in vogue for a long time. There is no comparison between watching a movie on a 10” tablet and watching the same movie in 4K on a 60” TV with surround sound. Some people will always crave to have that “movie theatre” atmosphere in their own homes.
Others, however, are quite comfortable with giving up some picture quality for the ability to “watch it anywhere”. If this concept is at all foreign to you remember that MP3 music which was a huge drop in quality over stereo systems and CDs became wildly popular.
So it is not the television that is dying. The big shift is in how we get our content. This is shifting from cable and satellite TV to digital media delivered over the internet through streaming. An entire ecosystem outside of the cable system has already developed. Big media players like Apple, Sony, Dish Network and others are jumping on the streaming train by offering their own streaming services.
The New Content
Some of us are still watching traditional television shows created by the networks, however this is quickly being supplanted by hundreds of shows born and produced exclusively online by entities like Amazon and Netflix.
Content is also being inexpensively created and distributed by social media companies like You Tube and Snap Chat.
While the television industry is notorious for being slow-moving, streaming is coming on board at an extremely fast pace. Up until now streaming TV has had limitations especially in access to news and sports programming. This, however, is rapidly changing. While Amazon and Netflix have been in the lead in the streaming world, Hulu is making an unprecedented move which is sure to speed up the move away from traditional TV.
Hulu’s recently launched new streaming service is called Hulu Live. This Hulu service streams live TV from traditional channels including ABC, Fox, Fox News, ESPN, HGTV, MSNBC, History, TNT and a smattering of local channels. Hulu Live is offering over 50 channels for $39 a month which includes their existing on-demand service—normally $8 per month. It also includes 50 hours of DVR cloud storage. Hulu Live gives you the ability to watch two screens at the same time. So you can watch on your home TV as well as on your computer or mobile device. This will appeal to dedicated television watchers as well as those who want to watch everywhere.
If you are wondering how Hulu can do this, it is easy to explain. Hulu is owned by several of the leading US TV networks. Hulu Live is jointly owned by 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co./ABC, Comcast/NBCUniversal. This may allow Hulu to move faster than any other streaming service. However, others like DirectTV Now are already entering the “live” frenzy.
Move away from Cable
Both Showtime and HBO used to be available only with a cable subscription. Now they are free-standing apps that are available without a cable subscription. MLB baseball and many other sports have apps available for sports lovers who don’t have cable subscriptions. All of these require a paid subscription. All of these app make the move away from cable apparent.
Most of the streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon have no contracts. You can cancel at any time. Even with package deals like Sling TV, DirectTV Now, and PlayStation Vue, you can cancel at any time. This may make service switching as popular as channel switching.
The Advertising Conundrum
We were fairly complacent about watching ads on television when it provided us with free over-the-air programming. Many people moved to cable to get rid of the ads. We wound up paying for cable and still watching ads. In fact, today’s broadcast TV has three or four minutes of ads every 15 minutes.
Currently streaming provides a lot of ad-free TV. Streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon have a lot of data about their viewers so they can target their viewers with customized ads, hopefully cutting down on the number of ads. Sometimes you can pay to get the ads removed. For instance, you can subscribe to You Tube Red for about $10 a month to get add-free You Tube viewing.
While the traditional ways of getting television content are dying, the television itself will probably be around for many more years. Many experts feel that when millennials, who are not taken with traditional television viewing, have children or become a bit more sedentary, they may move toward the big screen, but they will not consider paying a cable or satellite bill.
Certainly content has expanded with new internet resources like You Tube. We can now make decisions about what we want to purchase rather than having to purchase large bundles with hundreds of channels we don’t want to watch. Yet each service will have a cost involved. When all this settles down, we may be getting more viewing options but may not be saving as much money as we had hoped.