Cable television hasn’t had a good year. Collectively, cable providers lost 113,000 subscribers in just the third quarter of 2013. But this really isn’t a surprise. Cable TV has been on rapid decline since early September 2011, with nearly 5 million subscribers opting out over the last 5 years. And the reasoning is as clear as crystal for almost everyone but the providers themselves, as they remain befuddled and scratching their heads.
First, cable television is just downright expensive, and becoming increasingly so as providers increase premiums for remaining members in an effort to curb significant revenue losses. Cable providers are only digging a knife into an already bleeding wound. They are frankly in denial of the current shift to a more connected future. The world is in the midst of a digital paradigm shift in virtually every avenue, so it is only natural that consumers in general are transitioning from watching TV, to watching video, when and where they want to view it, through multiple devices. Consumers no longer wish to pay high premiums for hundreds of channels they never watch. Not only is it expensive, but digital streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus offer a low cost alternative, delivering massive amounts of high quality content across multiple platforms, no matter where they are, living room included.
Secondly, App stores, formerly reserved for smartphones and tablets, are slowly trickling their way into consumer homes via television sets, in multiple ways, further extinguishing what was once a flourishing cable TV market. The recent emergence of smart TV’s has made it significantly easier to stream digital services of choice through the convenience of smart TV apps built right in. In addition, digital streaming devices such as Roku, Apple TV, and gaming consoles can transform virtually any TV into a Smart TV, giving users the Smart TV they desire, without the need to purchase an updated television set just yet. And herein lies the rub. As app stores continue to stock their shelves with high quality and desirable channels, hoards of remaining cable subscribers will likely follow suit in jumping ship. The truth is, cable television just isn’t as desirable as it once was, a fact that will likely mark the death of the cable industry in just a few short years. With over 800 million TV households worldwide, and the average American still spending 4 hours or so watching their television set every day, the implications for smart TV app providers are exponential.
It is time for cable providers to wake up and read the writing on the living room wall. The world is evolving away from buffet style cable television services in favor of carefully selected smart app channels. The only way to compete is to offer subscribers a pick and choose plan at pay-per-channel rates, or Netflix and other smart TV apps will continue to eat their lunch, and their breakfast and dinner too.