Since moving to Boston, I haven’t had cable and frankly don’t miss it. I don’t say this as a granola hippie claiming there is nothing on television or that it’s a waste of time. I love television, and frankly think we are living in another golden age of TV where shows like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and others have developed some of the best writing over the life of each series.
What I mean here, is that all of these shows are available online, directly from the network’s website or through other online mediums. As more becomes available through the Internet and less is demanded on each cable package, paying $40 or more for 500 channels (where 30 of them I may use consistently) seems like a waste. It’s no surprise that the Internet is becoming more dynamic as a media consumption tool as well, and over the next few years, we’ll see many viewers follow suit like me.
This decade will see television undergo the same complications the newspaper industry underwent in the last one. Where extreme consolidation compacted smaller papers into bigger – and safer – media groups as readers (and now viewers) migrated to the web.
This means more control for the viewer and danger for big cable/satellite companies as the Internet wipes out the additional cost of large TV bundles. You’ll also see the cloud play a larger role, one that offers more unified flexibility and functionality for viewers. Products like the Nexus Q, are some of the first pieces of hardware that recognize this. With the Internet as your only connection, streaming will be the only way networks broadcast.
Many have now started to broadcast live television off of their website as well. So even though I may have been without cable during the painful series between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, every game was broadcasted live on espn.com (via ESPN3). Over the next decade, you’ll see channel numbers disappear as they are replaced with .com’s or .tv’s. Instead of punching in channel 40 to watch AMC’s Breaking Bad season premiere, you’ll punch in amctv.com. It’s a very simple change that will have big impacts.
Now hardware like Google TV and Apple TV will replace your big DVR box provided by your cable/satellite company. This will drastically cut revenue for companies like Comcast, that will still make money off of providing Internet service, but lose revenue from big TV bundles. Not to mention all of the on demand and pay-per-view content that will migrate to network web pages instead of funneling through their cable/satellite services.
Of course, networks like HBO will offer a subscription service independent of traditional commercials, which is already happening with HBO GO. This will work the same way the Wall Street Journal or New York Times does, by offering some content behind a subscription, while other networks offer commercial breaks the same they do now.
Also, many network sites will have pages or dedicated domains for consistent 24-hour broadcasts. The importance will again be on search, as Google TV already provides early examples of how Google Chrome discovers content and creates TV playlists. This will also stress the importance of services like Hulu Plus and Netflix that will become largely responsible for providing the “new” type of packages that replace many on demand services in existence now.
This could be a future that sees TV take one step backward to go two steps forward (like the print media a decade ago), or it could see cable/satellite providers learn from early lessons provided by a print media that has evolved with the Internet.