Waiting for the Fat Lady to Sing

Television industry prognosticators have been all too comfortable recently predicting the inevitable end of the traditional TV industry as it faces the onslaught of new digital-on-demand technology.

Yet consumers are not quite ready to write the obit for the broadcast and cable platforms.

It’s clear more and more consumers are enjoying the video-on-demand choices that over-the-top services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu offer. Yet more than two-thirds of consumers who frequently watch and stream content say that access to cable and broadcast services are a major draw to a multichannel pay TV package, according to a recent Horowitz Research study.

Further, 66% of viewers say that primetime broadcast dramas like Empire or comedies such as Fresh Off The Boat are essential to their viewing experience.

Conventional wisdom says that consumers who spend more than 20% of their viewing time streaming content from OTT services would be more apt to drop cable altogether, or never subscribe to a cable package. But per the Horowitz report, more than one-third (41%) of consumers surveyed said not having access to cable entertainment networks is a huge drawback to an OTT-only viewing experience, and half of respondents said having access to broadcast dramas and comedies via traditional television is “essential.”

Only one in five (22%) multiplatform viewers report being likely to change their relationship with their content services, with only 20% of multiplatform viewers who have multichannel services saying they are likely to cord-cut. Another 25% of multiplatform viewers who do not currently have, or have never had, multichannel service report that they are likely to start subscribing to multichannel service.

There’s no doubt that Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are credible, if not formidable, competitors to the traditional multichannel cable package — both onscreen through the distribution of quality original programming and off-screen in attracting eyeballs and dollars from consumers. But the traditional TV industry should take a lesson from the recently completed Super Bowl: Just because the outcome might look bleak, the game ain’t over until it’s over.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.