Friday, October 17, 2014

Online A La Carte Could Make Cable Subscriptions A Better Deal

Bundling, in the cable vernacular, has been seen by consumers as a bit of a dirty word.  Forced to take a number of channels that they would never watch, consumers heard the pitch that they would get better value for all its accessible networks.  Bundling applied to the services received as well; the Triple Play enabled consumers to purchase cable, broadband, and phone for one low price, getting discounts for being a multi-platform customer.  But as the costs for cable keeping inching up, customers have felt that a la carte would get them a lower price for only the services they truly wanted.

With threats of cord cutting and cable nevers, broadcast and cable channels are finally opening the door to a la carte subscription models.  HBO announced plans to offer their HBO GO digital subscription to non-cable customers and now CBS has announced their plans to offer a stand-alone digital content platform outside the cable spectrum.  Their hope, and that of others, like Univision, is that incremental revenue growth can be found in the digital subscription model.  Plus, it protects and competes on the same web platform with current online rivals like Netflix, Hulu, You Tube, and Amazon Prime.  Will CBS or Univision offer these digital services as added extras to authenticated cable customers like HBO offers with HBO GO?  The allure of an added revenue stream might just prevent them. 

Current cable subscribers might be encouraged by such content availability online and consider finally cutting their cable cord.  Those tired of paying exorbitant fees for their cable subscription could now get just what they want for less.  Or can they?  Online content usage shows that consumers have an insatiable appetite for video.  We keep searching for more and more to watch.  And as we sign up for more of these online services, the costs add up to the tipping point where a cable bundle just might start to become a better content deal.  And consumers that opt out of their cable subscription may start to see their Triple Play discounts evaporate.  They will pay more for broadband only service from cable, and even more to up the speed for download, as cable operators keep raising their prices. 

Cable operators are certainly hoping that cord cutting will be minimal.  Because consumers' demand for online content is growing, operators hope that subscribers will buy cable AND buy these monthly online digital services. And that might encourage networks to shift programming off on demand and onto their paid subscription models.  A la carte might just win the day but consumers will find that they are not only paying more but receiving less content as a result of cutting the cord.