Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hey TV, Netflix Is Your Frenemy

What do you do with an entrant in your business that spends millions of dollars for your content but also is taking viewers away from your channels?  That is certainly the question poised in today's New York Times on the Netflix Effect on television. 

Consumers are watching television differently.  The cost of cable television has skyrocketed while society has become more mobile. Linear television makes us wait while on demand and streaming lets us control when, where, and how we watch our shows.  And while advertising pays for programs to be made, subscriptions can as well while eliminating the interruptions of commercial breaks.  As a result, Netflix has disrupted the traditional model.  Truth is that linear TV will not go away.  When we don't know what to watch, we can still graze across all the choices and find a show to watch.  And live events force us to wait to watch at the appointed hour.  Netflix and other streaming services simply provides us with more choice as well as more flexibility. And advertising free is a nice benefit.

Television has been slow to change their current model.  It took years for content companies and cable operators to invest in on demand.  And their authenticated TV Everywhere model still lags as a competitive solution.  Netfix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has offered a possible idea for cable operators to pursue.  "Rather than debate what is driving that change, established television companies should change their business models, Mr. Sarandos said. As an example, he said that cable operators should invest in new technologies that would allow people to watch TV episodes weeks after they have been broadcast, but allow advertisers to insert up-to-date commercials."  My one change to that idea, not weeks later but the next day and to keep it accessible for a month or longer.  And lastly, enable authenticated devices outside the cable box to access the content. 

Ultimately, Netflix will be seen by the consumer as a complement to cable TV, not as a direct threat.   Consumers will seek the platform that serves the content they want to watch.  TV viewership may continue to migrate to streaming until a new balance is found.  But cable operators can pursue a more robust authenticated TV Everywhere model that delivers a great platform of easy to find, easy to view, and easy to monetize content that will serve future generations.