TV Is Dying, Broadband Declining

in internet on (#3T6V)
story imageThe pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever. Ratings for both cable and the broadcast networks are down. There has been negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011. The number of U.S. households is still growing, but fewer households have TV because they are watching video on mobile devices instead. The amount of video viewed on mobile devices is going through the roof. About 40% of all YouTube traffic comes from mobile.

Broadband internet was supposed to benefit from the end of cable TV, but it hasn't; people are also unplugging from broadband internet service. Most are likely utilizing free wifi hotspots provided by businesses, campuses and some cities. Fifty-seven cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, offer free wifi; anyone within range of a hotspot can avoid the monthly fees.

Cable TV ratings are in an historic slump, but revenues are still rising because companies are charging the dwindling number of customers more in subscription fees. Those higher prices are "part of the problem" that pushes out poor subscribers — losing the TV business even more eyeballs. This is having a counter-intuitive effect on TV ad sales: prices are going up. It's still really difficult to gather a large, mass audience in any kind of media. That scarcity makes TV's dwindling-but-still-big audience increasingly valuable... for now. Ad dollars are likely to follow that shift in the long run.

Not the price, the content (Score: 1)

by on 2015-02-27 14:03 (#3YE5)

Like many, I dropped my cable TV subscription some time ago. But it wasn't so much the cost that drove me away but the content. There wasn't anything I wanted to watch anymore. The interesting channels that originally made cable so exciting (History, TLC, Discovery, SciFi) had become so genericized that I might as well have been watching broadcast TV. More and more channels were resorting to "reality" shows, in which I have absolutely no interest. The news shows were just talking heads dealing superficially with the issue-of-the-day while ignoring more troublesome news. The movie channels kept showing the same films over and over again. And, oh God, the advertising! The marketing was becoming ever more discordant and shrill; it was like surfing the web without an ad-blocker.

So I took stock of my watching habits; was there anything cable TV gave me that I couldn't do without? News and weather? I had stopped turning to the TV for that long ago; the web tended to be more timely and offer deeper* analysis. Movies? My DVD collection was fairly extensive and I preferred being able to watch a movie on my schedule rather than waiting for it to roll around on cable. TV shows? Well, there were a handful I would miss but most could be replaced either by streaming from the web or simply waiting for the seasonal compilation to hit retail in DVD format. And I wouldn't be inundated with adverts while watching them.

I quit watching TV because they no longer had anything to offer me. That I was saving money in the bargain was just a nice bonus.

If TV - whether it be broadcast or cable - wants to survive as a medium, it needs to start offering people a worthwhile product. Stop pushing the cheapest possible programs ("reality" TV), diversify your lineup (e.g., a History channel that actually is about history, and not pawn shops), and severely cut back on how many adverts intrude on the watching experience. Otherwise more and more people are going to realize your offerings are crap and look for something better on which to spend their money.

* and seeing as how shallow a lot of web-based reporting is, that's a pretty damning statement on TV news
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