NBC Exec: Netflix Poses No Threat To Us, God Wants You To Watch Expensive, Legacy TV

from the not-just-a-river-in-Egypt dept

The traditional cable and broadcast industry's chief export is no longer quality programming, it's denial. First the industry denied cord cutting even existed. Then it acknowledged it existed, but pretended it was only something losers living with mommy had any interest in. More recently the cable industry has acknowledged that yes, there is something that vaguely looks like a mammoth tsunami looming on the horizon, but people are totally overreacting because the cable industry is just so god damned innovative.

Historically, the cable industry has needed all the help it could get when it comes to laboring under the delusion that the legacy cable cash cow will live forever. And, as Nielsen's failure to provide real data on cord cutting has shown, the industry employs plenty of people happy to take money in exchange for telling industry executives precisely what they want to hear. Lending a hand this week was NBC's president of research and media development Andy Wurtzel, who proudly told attendees of the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that neither Netflix nor YouTube pose a "consistent" threat to cable.

His only evidence? That Netflix's top shows still only get a fraction of the viewership that traditional cable gets:
"Symphony measured the average audience in the 18-to-49 demographic for each episode within 35 days of a new Netflix series premiere between September and December. During that time, Marvel's Jessica Jones averaged 4.8 million viewers in the demographic, comparable to the 18-to-49 ratings for How to Get Away with Murder and Modern Family. Master of None drew 3.9 million in the demo and Narcos was third with 3.2 million."
Nobody denies that cable TV's audience still towers over that of streaming video services. That's never been in dispute. Nor has anyone really debated the fact that cord cutting is a slow but steady phenomenon (NBC's parent company Comcast lost 48,000 video subscribers last quarter). But that doesn't really change the fact that the threat obviously exists, or that cable needs to dramatically change to adapt to it. But Wurtzel for some reason seems convinced that because viewership for Netflix hit shows drops off after a few weeks of binge watching, this somehow means cable has nothing to worry about:
"Wurtzel said Symphony's data also revealed that most viewers of those SVOD shows return to their old viewing habits by the third week. "[By then], people are watching TV the way that God intended"—that is, via traditional, linear viewing—said Wurtzel. "The impact goes away."

That's because Netflix has "a very different business model—their business model is to make you write a check the next month," said Wurtzel. "I don't believe there's enough stuff on Netflix that is broad enough and consistent enough to affect us in a meaningful way on a consistent basis."
But again, cord cutting isn't about just Netflix. It's about picking and choosing among a myriad of different options as an alternative to soaring cable rates. One fifth of pay TV customers are expected to cut the cord next year. Only 51% watch live TV (as "god intended"?). Consumers are tired of paying an arm and a leg to get 194 channels while only watching, on average, about 17 of them. And, to put it bluntly, cable's biggest customers are dying, and being replaced by "cord nevers" that have absolutely no interest in paying too much for too little.

The threat is more than just consistent, it's inevitable.

Fueled by the kind of bubbly optimism provided by Wurtzel, legacy cable honestly believes it's doing a bang up job adapting to the Netflix threat. Except that's not remotely true; the industry refuses to compete on price, consistently fights more flexible programming options tooth and nail, and still confuses proclamations of "Hey, we're innovating!" with actual innovation. Were I Netflix, Amazon, Apple, or any of a million other companies eager to jump into the field, I'd be thrilled that guys like Wurtzel continue to provide a false sense of security across an industry so desperately in need of a disruptive kick in the ass.

Filed Under: andy wurtzel, broadcast tv, cord cutting, denial, internet, nbc, streaming video, tv
Companies: comcast, nbc universal, netflix


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  1. icon
    JBDragon (profile), 18 Jan 2016 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Re: Locked to the Cord

    Sure you get a good price for Cable and TV, for a period of time and then it jumps up and hope you don't notice.

    I cut the cord 4 years ago. One of my other brothers a year ago. My Dad moved into my house, he had DishTV I guess, thought he would miss it. he doesn't! I get a lot of my TV from the Antenna. Besides ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and CW, there's other channels like MeTV and AntennaTV, etc that show a lot of old TV series that are new to you if you've never seen them. He watches a lot of that old stuff. Hogan's Hero's, and Columbo, etc. I have a TIVO and TIVO Mini's and so it can all be DVR and watched at any time. All that is 100% Legally FREE. ZERO monthly costs.

    There's other ways to get other content. My Goto is still Netflix. With more and more Original content, it's great and the price is right. You can buy a couple season passes for things yo may really like, Like I get "The Walking Dead" on AMC, from Amazon. I buy a SD season, and I can watch the new Episode the day after it airs on AMC, except commercial free and I own it!!! I get the SD version because it's cheaper and looks good enough. It's still widescreen.

    I get enough sports from ABC and FOX, etc for Football, etc. I'm not a huge sports person. You can sign up for MLB and stream that live. There are options. I pay Comcast currently $50 a month for 105Mbps service. That's it. I have my own cable modem. Before I cut the Cord I was paying Comcast $170 a month for much slower internet a TV service with a duel HD DVR tuner. No premium channels either. That was back then. So I'm saving $120 a month currently if I was was still paying Comcast old prices. It would be even higher these days. So no thanks.

    Basic math is prices didn't go up. $120 a month is $1,440 per year. In 10 years is $14,400!!!! How long to people keep paying Comcast? 10,20,30+ years!!! Wouldn't you rather keep that kind of money in your own pocket? The key is not signing up for all these other services. You don't need Netflix, HULU_ SlingTV, etc, etc, etc all at once.

    If you like Game of Thrones on HBO. That's really about it. Why pay $180 per year ($15 per month!)? Wait for the season to be over, pay $15 for one month and watch the whole season in that month time, which is easy enough and any other content, and then cancel at the end of the month and wait another year and pay for another month. That's 100% legal. It's also a CHEAP way to watch a season of GOT!!!

    You get used to things the new way. My 68 year old Dad doesn't have a problem for the most part. He's told me he has to much to watch already. I agree with that!!! I have to much to watch also. I sure don't need 200 channels of garbage and only watch about 20 at most. What a scam. To get that 1 or 2 channels you want. You have to get the BIG package. These company's set it up to get you to spend more money by doing this. I don't play that game anymore.

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