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Re: The way people view television...
« on: March 29, 2015, 03:20:59 pm »
Interesting piece...

The Millennial Trends That Are Killing Cable

“Cord-cutting” has become the bane of cable providers’ existence, but the fast-changing face of consumer content is signaling dark days ahead for cable, as the option to avoid or drop cable service has grown more appealing and more popular than ever lately. The Internet, mobile devices, TiVo TIVO -0.19%, Netflix NFLX -0.84% and other streaming services, and other major disruptions to traditional TV and home entertainment mediums were already hurting the cable industry. But now, recent events have given rise to predictions that the era of cable may be coming to a close.

Netflix began producing their own original content in 2011 with House of Cards, and quickly ramped up the creation of new original shows, with dozens of programs and films in the works or already on the air. Meanwhile, HBO recently announced they will offer stand-alone service so customers need not have cable to enjoy HBO’s lineup anymore. This news was followed by announcement of a deal to carry HBO Now exclusively on Apple TV, but then came word HBO had also arranged a deal with some cable providers to offer HBO’s streaming service to customers as part of an Internet plan instead of as part of bundled cable content. Showtime is pursuing a similar path away from cable, too.

Cable Killers

Right after the announcement of the deal to carry HBO Now on Apple TV, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Apple plans to offer a streaming TV service that will include ABC, CBS, FOX, FX, ESPN, and 20 other broadcast channels to start. The pricing will fall be $30-40 each month, and it’s expected that the plan will also include VOD streaming service alongside the broadcast channels.

And in the aftermath of the FCC’s adopting of strong Net Neutrality protections came rumblings that HBO, Showtime, and Sony might seek classification as “managed” services rather than regular broadband Internet content. This would skirt Net Neutrality and allow those content providers to get faster, better delivery to customers apart from the “public” Internet, so to speak.

In short, the times they are a changin’, and not in cable’s favor. To get a better grasp of just how dramatic all of this news is, and how much it’s changing the landscape of the future of content distribution and consumption, I spoke with Deloitte, who work on — among other things — strategic risk management and who provided data and insights regarding the emerging threats to traditional business models in entertainment, and how the landscape is going to change in the future.

First, some generalizations: What is the trend with regard to cable versus alternate viewing mediums like DVRing, Netflix, and so on? Deloitte notes that households have an average of seven connected devices, and that number will grow over time. The company’s Digital Democracy Survey revealed a great deal of relevant data. For example, 37% of U.S. consumers today own the trio of tablets, laptops, and smartphones, a percentage that represents a 270% increase since 2010. In the same time frame, women have gone from just about 11% of those trio-owners to 45% of those owning all three devices. And a major factor in trends is generational differences, which aren’t always obvious when you look at the broad data but which significantly change consumption patterns from one generation to the next.

The Digital Democracy Survey data about Millennials shows they represent nearly one-third of the U.S. population over age 13, and more than one-third of those between the ages of 14 and 66. And it is Millennials who are driving disruptive trends the most, consuming most of their TV and film content online rather than through television or Blu-ray/DVDs. 56% of the TV and film viewing by Millennials aged 14-24 is on computer, smartphone, tablet, or a gaming device — only 44% is via TV. Older Millennials (in the 24-30 age range) consume 47% of their film and TV content on those alternative devices. So on average, the 30-and-under crowd’s primary means of consuming content is through mobile devices, streaming, and online. That’s in sharp contrast to the over-30 crowd who still rely on television for an average of more than 80% of their film and TV show viewing.

Tellingly, the desire for à la carte purchasing of channels is equal to that for bundled cable packaging, but the real difference is the means of consumption and what activities a given demographic engages in while watching TV. A majority of Millennials browse online, between 41% and 51% text (the younger Millennials coming in at the higher percentage), and 48% use social media, during television viewing. Overall, however, a whopping 86% of all U.S. consumers are doing something else while watching TV, most of those activities being online or using some sort of alternate multimedia mobile device. But the average number of activities while viewing television changes from each demographic, with Millennials averaging four activities compared to three for Generation Xers, two for Baby Boomers, and one for the over-66 crowd.

The trend, then, is that younger consumers are increasingly likely to consume content on platforms besides television, and to use more other multimedia mobile devices while watching television. Deloitte says it boils down to people wanting the easiest access to content wherever they happen to be. And the behaviors of different generations are clearly a factor in how they consume content — younger viewers are more likely to use more different devices while watching, so perhaps that’s why they are more likely to consume content at a higher rate on other devices.

HBO, Showtime, and Sony seeking ways around the FCC rulings highlights the fact that availability of bandwidth and its cost could create changes to the patterns, if for example Netflix could see its position either strengthened or weakened by the FCC decisions and by the ways its competitors respond, and then again by how the FCC might in turn respond to attempts to circumvent open Internet rules. All of these businesses — new and old alike — are seeking ways to respond to the changes in the environment and changes in consumer patterns of spending and consumption. As they react and adapt, those best positioned will survive, and being well-positioned naturally means seeing the changes coming and preparing for them, then taking the right action when the disruptions occur in order to not only survive the change but to actually benefit from it and come out in an even better position.

Let’s take a closer look at some examples of disruptors and the impact they’ve had, and might have down the road. Some experts claim HBO’s move to allow online subscription isn’t actually disruptive and will just end up augmenting cable, not undermining or replacing it. Others point to this as a defining moment that signals imminent radical change. Which view is right?

The defining point, according to Deloitte, is that the balance of power in the consumer-provider relationship has shifted to the consumer. So getting closer to the consumer is the way to survive and take advantage of the consumer-driven trends. HBO’s move is a reaction to the reality that younger viewers have cut the cord or just never had the cord to begin with, and in order to reach them HBO is having to take risks and try new models for reaching those viewers. Without expanding to new avenues to get closer to those Millennial consumers, HBO would risk losing them entirely, and 74 million consumers is simply too many to ignore — the risk of failing to reach them frankly outweighs the risk of trying new models at this point.

Notice, too, that HBO taking this new direction is probably going to have an effect on the generational habits, since now HBO — and CBS following close behind, and soon Showtime and undoubtedly other as well — are demonstrating a functional alternative to cable bundling of services, bringing the reality of à la carte purchasing home (literally and figuratively). Millennials who take interest and pursue HBO will do so because HBO has gone to those places where they must go to get close to those consumers, and so those consumers will decide if the option is appealing enough or not, and if so it will reinforce the trend toward preference for à la carte purchasing over cable, which could (and likely will) further the move toward cord cutting and demand for alternatives.

However, Deloitte is quick to point out that HBO didn’t in fact start this trend. That credit goes to MLB Live and Netflix, HBO is simply the first major pre-existing channels to join the streaming subscription trend that’s already underway. Besides, à la carte purchasing sounds great, but it also requires more work than just signing up for a big package you know has a lot of your favorite stuff already included. Expense could become an issue as well. Those most likely to consume larger amounts of varied content across many platforms are also those who at present are more likely to favor à la carte purchasing and are more used to handling the many variables involved. But if all consumption became à la carte without price drops, then that long list of content could get too pricey, and we might even see a reversal of trends back toward some alternate form of bundling.

The point is, HBO’s move has yet to official kick off, so it’s premature to try and guess too far ahead. That said, other content producers and providers will respond depending on whether HBO’s move is rewarded by younger consumers and whether it likewise instigates a larger move toward cord cutting among older demographics as well. If we see a faster trend toward cord cutting in Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, replacing cable with streaming alternatives like HBO Now and Apple streaming and so on, then other producers and providers will have to go where the consumers are and follow HBO’s lead.

The wisdom of HBO’s choice, though, is apparently already obvious enough that several companies are clearly not waiting for results to roll in before taking their own leap. With some cable providers already dealing or willing to deal with HBO to provide the channel via Internet instead of bundled in channel packages is a sure sign HBO’s move will be disruptive after all, and it will be harder for cable to adjust and avoid a significant impact to traditional relationships with consumers.

Pointing to Tad Friend’s The New Yorker article about viral videos, Deloitte suggests that in the grand scheme of things, HBO’s move could be just a relatively small disruption compared to the way YouTube, Vine, and similar services are radically changing the rules for how content is produced, distributed, and viewed. For younger audiences among the Millennials, such services are a big part of what they consume and how they consume.

If HBO’s move (and the similar moves by CBS, Showtime, and others soon) does indeed kick off a trend of many large channels moving to streaming service options away from cable, then Deloitte sees it as a fundamental attack on the economic value of bundled cable service. Cable companies would have to respond by playing one of the strong cards they have left in their hand: their role as major suppliers of Internet into homes. To get the content, you still need a way to receive it, and at-home content delivery of online and streaming content is overwhelmingly handled through cable providers — you aren’t going to see many households relying on cellular Internet access to act as a hot spot for all of their devices and TV at home, after all. So leveraging this position as Internet providers still puts cable companies in the position of distributors of content, just in a different way than they’re used to counting on.

Another point to consider, according to Deloitte, is whether cable providers like Comcast provide access to content, or move toward becoming owners of the content they distribute. Comcast in fact has for a few years now been moving toward a role in production and ownership role in content it provides, expanding beyond the role as distributor. But in the long run, the true power cable companies will have is as distributors who have the path into consumers’ homes.


Companies are responding in different ways to the reality of the changing trends, seeking not only ways to change and do things differently, but also frankly how to retain whatever they can of what they already have now. The truth is, the largest companies aren’t having to survive, they are merely having to adjust in order to remain dominant and grow their financial strength. It’s everyone else who must worry about survival in the disrupted market, while companies like HBO set the pace and carve out the direction. Watch the industry leaders, then, to get the best idea of where the trends are headed. As that happens, watch for the smaller companies who successfully identify and fill roles left vacant by the larger players, and for the larger players to buy up or craft deals with those successful smaller companies.

With so much depending on getting closer to consumers and knowing what they want, when they want it, Deloitte identifies consumer data as likely a major commodity among these companies going forward. Those companies with greater pools of consumer data are the best positioned to see the trends as they take place, and more importantly which trends are going to emerge in the future.

Consider the difference between the amount of consumer data held by Amazon, and that held by Comcast. Those two sets of data are dramatically different in some key ways, with Comcast having broader information about viewing trends and consumer plans, but not the nuanced day to day specific data about individuals within households and long-term personal trends regarding not just what they watch in a specific context (like cable bundle preferences and number of devices receiving specific services) but even data about what they look at and consider, what they get for their friends and family, what they stream and what they buy in hard-copy form, what they read and what they wear, and so on. Future trends will be much easier to predict from the data pool at Amazon.

The trends in consumption and viewing platforms have caused shifts in the approach to content production as well. Content delivered via the Internet, for viewing on mobile devices a little bit at a time as viewers go about their day and engage on other devices, requires a change in how projects are selected and created. Deloitte identify a few key indications of how consumer trends have changed production and distribution of content, the first and most obvious being that binge-viewing of programs on streaming services. This, Deloitte points out, undermines the entire concept of programming schedules at networks, and we’ve also seen a significant rise in production of long format drama series that are popular for binge-watching. The shows have a faster pace, and have to constantly reinforce the viewer’s interest in what’s happening next and to reduce the chances audiences will skip through slower parts of the show.

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