Sometimes it feels like we spend too much time looking at the trees but missing the forest. I share this trite observation as it applies to cable operators in their desire to stop cord cutting, the act of subscribers dropping their cable subscriptions for OTT content. With notable shows on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Hulu, Crackle, and other digital sites, cable operators watch with disdain as its viewership erodes.
Truth is, there is nothing unusual with these trends; they follow the desires of the consumer and the companies that innovate and change to get in front of them. And while TV sets got bigger and sharper, some tried 3D, others 4K, the consumer preference changed to smaller, more personal, handheld screens on tablets and smartphones. This is the current future of how many are watching video content today. And this is their choice. Cable operators have remained more locked behind their set top boxes and tethered to wires that run around the home. And because of the license deals that they signed, they are limited on what they can push out to subscribers on wireless outside the home. As we have become more mobile, cable operators remain fixed.
Its not that viewers aren't watching TV shows or movies. They are watching shows that once appeared on television and others originally created for OTT platforms. Want to see Seinfeld as it first aired without being cut down for syndication, go to Hulu. Ready to watch the third season of the original series Orange is the New Black, go to Netflix. The screen may be smaller or it may not; now the consumer has more choice. They now decide what device best suits their viewership needs, an iPhone or iPad, Roku, Chromecast or any other device can allow viewers to choose where, how and when they want to watch. "It's Not Linear, It's Whenever", could now be HBO's new slogan. With HBO Go and HBO Now, a consumer can access content as an authenticated cable subscriber or simply as an online monthly subscription. And some cable networks are following along, creating streaming channels of their own to drive viewership and hopefully revenues.
Content companies are winning because they now have more platforms to sell their programs to. Can't get a good syndication deal, sell it to OTT. Cable operators have been slow to get true TV Everywhere for its subscribers. And it may get harder for them as content companies love having different platforms to negotiate with. But those costs can only rise to purchase license fee rights to both cable and streaming platforms. And then those costs will likely be passed through to the consumer.
Here is what I want. As a cable customer, I want to access the cable guide on my iPad, see what is available on channels and on demand quickly and easily, and watch on that same iPad the show I picked, regardless of where I am sitting, in the home or on the beach or in another city. I want to decide if I want to push that content to a larger TV screen in my home instead. And I want to do it now. I want control, I want choice, and I want flexibility. No set top box tree and branch searching for me, no tethering to a location; I want mobility, unlimited access, ergonomic search, with a quality picture and fast and easy functionality. The content is the content, how you deliver it to us matters more.