TV, Cable Companies Convincing Themselves People Don't Want To Cut The Cable

from the the-self-delusion-of-the-damned dept

There's a NY Times article that appears to have a bunch of cable & TV companies congratulating themselves for beating the internet in getting people to keep paying high monthly premiums to get premium TV channels on their TV, rather than using some of the various internet solutions out there. Like so many awful NY Times "trend" pieces these days, it appears to key off of a single anecdote of one guy who tried to ditch cable, and then went back after a year. How many people are actually doing this? No idea. It's not like the reporters at the NY Times tell us. They do tell us that not too many people have dropped cable, but that's hardly surprising. What's much more amusing is the suggestion that the cable and TV companies have somehow "beat" the internet by restricting content:
In part that is because the television business took action to avoid the same fate. Heavyweight distributors and producers have protected their business models by ensuring that some must-see shows and live sporting events cannot legally be seen online.
Legally. Yes. But, just wait until you see what that enables on the less-than-legal side of the internet. As for the fact that people aren't dropping cable yet, this all really sounds like the cable companies not recognizing how trends accelerate. They do, indeed, start slow, and as Clayton Christensen has noted for years, the incumbents don't pay attention early on, because the other solutions just don't seem as good. And... here in the NY Times article we get:
Technology companies are pushing alternatives like Web-connected set-top boxes. But these are still not as easy as signing up for cable or satellite service, particularly for those who want to watch on a big flat-screen TV and not a computer.
Classic innovator's dilemma statement. It's certainly true that, right now, it's not as easy to use these internet services as it is to sign up for cable, but it's getting easier all the time, and sooner or later, someone is going to create a breakthrough service that makes it really easy. We've seen it time and time again. Napster did it for music file sharing after we were told that people didn't want music online. Vonage did it for VoIP after telcos insisted that VoIP quality would never sell. Who knows who it will be, or when, but someone will figure it out, and then we'll see the cable and TV companies freak out, because the cable cutters will shift into high gear.

This is the problem we were discussing recently, where disrupted companies simply don't recognize the speed at which a disruptive offering catches on when it does finally catch on. They think that they're successfully "protecting" their existing business with things like Hulu's subscription plans, but that will cause them to miss the truly disruptive innovation.

At least the NY Times article hints at the growing undercurrent, in noting that the younger generation is four times as likely to go without a cable subscription. That number is just going to grow, and as new offerings come along that make it easier and easier to get what you want, when you want it, without silly restrictions, the idea that the legacy guys "beat" the internet by restricting access to content will seem laughable.

Update: And look... just as this is published, out comes the news that cable TV has suffered its first ever decline in subscribers. Nice work, NY Times, in pitching a whole story based on a single anecdote, about how cable has nothing to fear... just as the numbers come out to show that people are, in fact, cutting back on cable subscriptions. I'm sure stories like this will make the upcoming NY Times paywall that much more valuable.

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  1. identicon
    vicarious infringer, 24 Aug 2010 @ 10:15am

    I cut cable years ago, it costs less for high-speed internet, and access to usenet to get unlimited 'channels' when/where/how I want them. Cable companies have been progressively losing customers year after year.

    I have a 60" LCD 'monitor' connected to my HDMI computer, and get better 1080p quality from newsgroups than I do from any 'channel'.

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