Gurus and pundits have long predicted the death of TV. The train started going off the rails when streaming services arrived. Initially, Netflix was considered a friend. It was another source of revenue and marketing tool for brands like AMC for premiering Breaking Bad, allowing it to turn into a bigger hit during the final season.
Soon, AMC figured out that content consumers started thinking of Breaking Bad as a Netflix original show. Meanwhile, Netflix was playing a significant role in changing viewer habits. Last year, the streaming service launched more original programming than what the entire cable TV industry had a decade earlier. I am not even exaggerating!
The Shift in Trends
Cord-cutting has now become a real threat. Customers now know they can get almost everything they want in a streaming service. Soon, they will think I no longer need a cable plan of 150 channels.
Over the years, general entertainment channels have suffered a drop in their ratings. Variety’s tally says that in 2019, Nick’s total viewers dropped down by 24 percent, AMC by 22 percent, FX down by 21 percent, USA by 19 percent, TBS by 16 percent, and TNT by 14 percent.
Until recently, cable TV used to drive the bottom line of the entertainment industry. Parent companies used to gear up to expand their suite of channels. No wonder Disney spent $5.3 billion in 2001 to buy Fox Family Channel and rebranded it was ABC Family, and now calls it Freeform.
Cable even spent billions for launching movie packages, off-network broadcast shows, and pricey sporty rights to attract more subscribers and even raise their fees. This growth second had no limit. But things are not the same.
Where’s the Future? Where Are We Headed?
Cable’s decline is not a new story. Rather than addressing the elephant in the room, cable executives are found focusing on their brands and intellectual properties. They are trying to carve a space for them in the streaming world. Hence, FX is available for streaming on Hulu and National Geographic on Disney +. Even giant cable companies like Charter have stepped on this bandwagon too. Spectrum Offers include a streaming service called Spectrum Originals to allow cable subscribers to stream original content created by the provider itself. Cable companies are trying their best to run the basic cable networks, at least. In other words, they are investing in streaming.
Although the modern audience has embraced the streaming era, they aren’t hungry to consume all the new content out there. The YouGov survey revealed that 15 percent of the respondents said they are interested in watching a new series on HBO Now. Only 6 percent said they would watch a new show on Peacock.
Netflix has indeed forced its competitors to adapt to the change. Take the example of the most-watched show Friends. It traveled from NBC to Netflix and now to HBO Max. This has allowed content consumers to watch as many episodes of the show they want and even skip to their favorite season. All this without commercials! Now isn’t that preferable than watching Friends on TV?
Will Cable Obsolete?
Strong winds of change are blowing for the cable industry and it’s happening faster than we thought. Millions of households have ditched cable and signed up for streaming services because it’s cheaper. The trend isn’t slowing down, it’s accelerating. The COVID pandemic was another driving force behind it. Since the economic conditions of families weren’t great, many said goodbye to cable services and chose streaming platforms.
It is hard to say if cable TV will obsolete completely but the change is on its way. Unfortunately, running a streaming service is not easy. The rise of original content from Amazon and Netflix has diminished the power of distribution to major cable companies. That’s why Major right holders such as Disney have launched their own streaming services rather than making the streaming audience go through a pay-TV provider. Others are following the suit as well.
Top cable executives believe that broadcast TV will go away at some point, maybe not today or tomorrow but someday. Right now, they are managing their decline, but it’s a decline and it feels irreversible.