Are Streaming Services Killing Off Cable Television?
Cable bills costing hundreds of dollars a month are a hard pill to swallow, but until relatively recently, cable was the only way to watch your favorite shows. With the evolution of streaming services like YouTube TV and Sling, though, that’s all changing. As a result, many people are cutting the cable cord.
Streaming services provide competition to cable television, and they also have unique benefits like unparalleled affordability and the ability to suggest shows based on viewer behavior. Cable TV can’t offer these same perks. If cable television will continue to survive, we’ll likely see some major changes and perhaps a complete restructuring to the TV industry that we know today.
The Popularity of Livestreaming
Livestreaming services use the internet to deliver shows and movies straight to your television. The most popular streaming apps are Sling TV, Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, and YouTube TV. These services are each a bit different, and some offer certain channels or DVR capabilities. All of these services, however, allow for TV streaming without the hefty cable bill.
The subscription services Hulu and Netflix are also changing up the face of the television industry. While these services don’t allow viewers to watch specific channels like streaming services do, they offer a wealth of shows and movies that viewers can access on demand. Most smart TVs will already have access to Hulu and Netflix apps, but devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku can connect traditional TVs to these apps.
The appeal of streaming and subscription services is taking its toll on the television industry. In the third quarter of 2018, more than one million paying television consumers cancelled their subscriptions. That comes on the heels of 2017, a year in which 2.9 million television subscribers also cancelled their service.
Why Viewers Are Cutting the Cord
For many television viewers, these streaming services offer plenty of perks that justify cutting the cord to traditional cable. Whereas cable subscriptions can cost hundreds of dollars a month, most streaming services only cost about $40 and are generally much more versatile.
Subscription services like Netflix offer a major advantage over TV through the use of artificial intelligence. AI is changing the marketing landscape, and Netflix uses AI to suggest relevant shows and movies that a viewer may find interesting. These personalized recommendations are based off of a viewer’s viewing history and can make it easier to navigate the massive amount of content to find shows and movies that a viewer will likely enjoy.
Streaming services also give viewers a bit more control over the channels that they subscribe to while paying less money. Cable packages can be massive, and most viewers end up with tons of extra channels that they don’t watch yet have to pay for. Streaming services do offer packages, but when you’re only paying $40 a month, it’s easier to stomach the fact that you might not watch some of those channels that you get.
One downside to streaming services is that it can be tricky to find a service that offers all your favorite channels, so some viewers subscribe to multiple services. Each option lacks some notable channels: YouTube TV doesn’t offer channels such as A&E, Comedy Central, Discovery, the Food Network, HGTV, History, or Lifetime. Hulu with Live TV also leaves out some popular channels, such as MTV, Discovery, Nickelodeon, and major sports channels. Sling TV offers a number of different packages, but each package has some channels missing.
Navigating the piecemeal nature of multiple streaming services can be tricky, but a number of apps can enhance the online streaming experience. These allow viewers to quickly identify streaming services that offer their favorite content or give viewers free movie and TV show rentals which are “paid for” by watching ads. With the increased popularity of streaming, we’ll probably see more apps in the future that help to make streaming even easier and more enjoyable.
Cable’s Response to Streaming
With the massive loss of subscribers to streaming services, cable TV needs to make some significant changes if it will survive. Unfortunately, many cable channels have headed into a downward spiral. As subscriptions have declined, the cable companies have laid off employees and raised subscription prices, negatively impacting the remaining subscribers and giving them even more reason to cut the cord.
Nevertheless, sports might be able to save cable. NFL football games in particular are highly popular, and over 202.3 million people watched NFL football in the 2014 season. NBC’s Sunday Night Football was viewed by 21.3 million football fans on average. With many streaming services lacking sports stations like ESPN, cable companies could leverage their ability to offer sports to help encourage subscribers to stay.
Sports alone might not be enough to save cable TV, though. The money-saving benefits of streaming are significant and hard to ignore. To stay competitive, cable TV will need to come down in price, offer perks like comprehensive channel packages, and maybe even adopt a production approach like Netflix to create content that viewers can only get from cable companies.