The list of industries that thought they were unassailable is becoming longer and longer. Mary Meeker does an excellent job of summarizing in her 2012 Internet Trends but she doesn’t say as much about the next great disruption: cable and satellite providers. While that may not seem like news, the speed and ferocity of disruption is going to surprise people in 2013.
The trend is called “cord cutting” and started slow with a few early adopters, like the folks who started having cell phones as their primary phones a few years back. The most thorough disruptions happen that way.
Cable and satellite Pay-TV are collapsing before our eyes and it isn’t just because of cord cutting. There is another term gaining ground and that is “cord nevers”. These are the youngsters who never saw the value in watching programming when and where someone else decided. They don’t pay a dime to cable or satellite providers and think the rest of us world is crazy for the thousands they spend every year.
These cord-nevers see entertainment as something to be personalized. They multi-task while they watch, often pausing or skipping ahead as they see fit. They are time shifting their viewing and don’t care so much about live events if they can watch it at their convenience. This group is second screening as part of their multi-tasking and giving life to whole new platforms and ways to be social.
We live in a residential area and we rarely see the cable or satellite companies anymore. We have to believe that the providers did this to themselves to some extent as people grew tired of waiting for a guy to show up “sometime between 9 and 5.” It could have also been providers’ own ‘Fiscal Cliff’ built into their billing systems as ticking time bombs that bump your bill higher automatically at the end of that promotion they sold you six months ago. Maybe it was just making you buy so many channels you didn’t want to have the few you did. Or maybe it was the fact that in 2009, broadcasts went digital and HD is now available through an antenna, bringing local sports in real-time.
The final proof for us was New Years Eve 2012, where we could watch the ball drop in HD, originating on a MacBook Air in another room, sent by AirPlay to an AppleTV and then to the big screen. It was free, live and easy.
Is the industry ready to admit defeat? Not at all, which is why the disruption will be even greater. In Wall Street Journal article in November, DirecTV and Dish blamed disputes with programmers, like the four-month fight Dish had with AMC. Believe it or not, some blame a weak housing market. Those are ominous signs.
Exhibit A: In a November interview, Time Warner’s CEO said that cord cutting is overstated and that the phenomenon is limited to a small segment of low income Americans. Did I read that right?
The final proof may be the statement made by Dish Executive Joe Clayton that never mentions cord cutting at all while at least admitting their model is dead:
The days of double-digit growth in our business are over. Faced with slow subscriber growth, plus faster-than-inflation programming cost increases, there is no question that the entire industry will have to rethink its current business model and strategy.
Gee, Joe, do ya think?
Cable Deals Won’t Stop Cord Cutting – Forbes, November 13, 2012
More Hints of Cord Cutting Surface in Pay-TV Results – Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2012
Cut the cord and say goodbye to cable – USA Today, December 8, 2012
Cord Cutters topic on GigaOM
Time Warner CEO: Cord cutters not an issue, “cord nevers” might be – paidContent, November 16, 2012