Monday, January 30, 2012

Building A Broadband Channel Line-up To Compete With Your Cable Company

YouTube is building out its broadband lineup of channels and the question to cable operators is this, will a broadband channel aggregator divert enough subscribers and their viewership away from your cable line-up or will the TV Everywhere approach ultimately keep your cable subscribers engaged and paying?

Certainly a very serious threat by Google and YouTube is designed to attract and pull away viewership. Some of the channels being discussed seem very niche. But isn't that how cable first began before morphing into broader programming. Bravo was once high art, now it is pop culture. MTV is not music but young and hip lifestyle programming. In almost every cable networks' case, what started as a niche has grown into broader programming to increase ratings.

For YouTube, the initial channels may be limited in scope but are surely designed to expand and attract greater share as well. One such channel backed by IGN, a game publisher owned by News Corp, is to be called Start. Another is coming from Electus and IAC and will be a Food Channel. It will likely try to attract viewers that like Food Network on their cable line-up. YouTube is planning more than 100 channels to compete and perhaps cause cable subscribers to cut the cord.

Will these niche channels pose a threat to cable? Early on broadcast networks didn't pay attention to upstart cable either. But gradually, the broadcast viewership share was reduced as cable viewership rose. Is the same likely with the rise of these online channels? It is if cable operators and their respective networks don't embrace a TV Everywhere approach that offers authenticated viewers unlimited access to linear and on demand programming on any platform. And while some of this is enabled already for WIFI viewing "inside" the home, full accessibility must be granted to enable viewership anywhere and everywhere.

I believe full availability is necessary for cable to retain and maintain its base. Otherwise, consumers may perceive a choice and start preferring these online rising networks to limited cable only availability. While the quality of the programming online and on cable may get compared, the choice of access will be a non issue. Then it will be up to smart programmers and marketers to continue to innovate to keep customers watching and engaging with their respective networks across all platforms.

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