Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Can Cable Television Survive The Rise Of Web Networks?

Two separate stories are tied together by the growing usage of broadband spectrum. First comes from the NY Times where Lloyd Braun's media company, Whalerock Industries is introducing a number of web networks, including Kim Kardashian and Howard Stern. According to the article, "These channels, set to arrive in the coming months and available via the web and mobile app, will offer a mix of paid and free programming". It is the rise of these a la carte online subscription services that has been the bane of cable subscribers forced to buy bundles of cable networks that they don't want.

And that leads to the second article from Broadcasting & Cable where analyst Craig Moffett tells us that his firm "has downgrade Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications to Neutral, warning investors that it's time to reduce their exposure to the cable business." Partly due to worries from increased FCC regulation, but also because of the increased competition on the broadband platform."

The television industry, once classified as broadcast, then to encompass cable, now is redefined again to embrace programming off cable from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and perhaps in the coming years from companies like Whalerock.  The millenial audience is already embracing the stars of You Tube and elsewhere.  But that next audience, 12-18, who I have heard described as Generation Edge, who are growing up with a preference for their mobile device, smartphone or tablet, over the traditional television set. 

Will they pay for a la carte web channels?  Glenn Beck seems to have found a big enough audience willing to pay for his channel.  MLB gets paying subscribers for live baseball games, too.  I guess the question is how many of these web networks can survive and how many need a broadband aggregator service like Sling TV to derive value from smaller, but more meaningful bundles.  Cable may need to rework its subscriber packaging formula to best compete.  Regardless, there will be some cord cutting, the question for the analysts and all these companies is how much.