Netflix. Hulu. Crunchyroll. Funimation. WWE Network. HBO on Demand. Amazon Prime.
The competition is becoming fierce between the most dominant players in the online streaming marketplace, a new frontier with thirsty yet choosy customers. Yet despite this deep degree of rivalry between the new kids on the digital block in a very young industry, the biggest losers are surely traditional cable companies and broadcast networks.
From a delivery standpoint, looking at the infrastructure necessary to deliver customized entertainment content to each individual customer, there is little difference in the way we watch television and movies when compared with the years previous, with one notable exception being the rampant growth of fiber-optic internet – even in rural communities – with hitherto unheard of speeds of up to 1GB.
The proof is in the financial reports, however, and the inexorable crawl of cable delivery’s downturn continues. Leichtman Research Group reports that the major players in the Pay-TV sector lost 315,000 paying customers between them. On the bright side, this loss of over a quarter million subscribers across the marketplace is less than was lost in Q1 of 2017.
“… the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. – representing about 95% of the market – lost about 305,000 net video subscribers in 1Q 2018, compared to a pro forma loss of about 515,000 subscribers in 1Q 2017.”
It’s not that surprising considering that the oldest millennials are approaching 40, and many of them have never paid for cable television in their lives – instead relying on broadband internet connections to provide their news, entertainment, and social content. With Netflix set to post over 1,000 originals by the end of 2018 according to Gizmodo, hosting such high-value hits as most of the Marvel Universe canon (The Punisher, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and even the controversial Iron Fist), Altered Carbon, Black Mirror, Orange is the New Black, Riverdale, and others – there can be little doubt that the future of basic cable and Pay-TV dominance is over.
How can traditional broadcast news and cable content providers fight the good fight, overcharging for channels that nobody really wants in a time of complete (and most importantly, cheap) consumer choice? It is hard to argue the case for cable packages topping 200 USD when the average subscription to most streaming services is a cool $10 or less. Industry analysts and armchair critics agree on the decline of what was once a titanic industry that controlled hearts and minds the world over.
The persistent question is not when the end of traditional television distribution will end, but for how long the former titans of the business can cling to what’s left.