Cord cutting has been a concern for cable tv companies for a number of years now as subscriptions fall due to the rising popularity in streaming services – but the coronavirus may be causing this to happen faster than many previously expected as over 1.6 million cut their service in the first quarter of the year, a 70% increase in the same period compared to the year before. The cause of this is no secret – an increasing cost in cable tv compared to the relatively low cost of streaming platforms such as Netflix as well as a changing in quality between what is offered by each, but the answer may also be a little more nuanced than just the financial aspect.
One of the biggest determining factors may be found in our changing habits as smartphone and mobile device usage continues to grow and regular TV usage falls – smart TVs are still very much the leading platform used to view streamed content, but mobile use grows each year and the streaming platforms are designed and optimised with touchscreen use. In fact, some of our favourite past times are now available on smart TVs – consumers appear to be watching less cable TV, but instead using the smart functionality to partake in their favourite pastimes. Netflix and Disney+ have replaced traditional TV channels, and indeed many are using the smart functionality to play online games. Given the Covid-19 pandemic, online gaming has seen a surge – not least online poker and online casino – both of which have seen uplifts in excess of 500%. And the smart TV enables the user to play from the comfort of their living room – some of the top slots sites, poker sites, and indeed trivia quizzes have undertaken a presence on this platform, and it’s changing the way the consumer uses their TV.
This changing attitude toward traditional TV media and streamed content, as well as our increasing usage in difference devices has been the perfect storm in which cable TV is unable to survive through – unless there are big changes to the way pricing structures work with cable, or even to the content and quality of shows that is put out by cable tv, it’s looking increasingly likely that over the coming years cable is on the way out as the younger audience are much less likely to ever get a subscription.
Cable may not be the only traditional media going through changes – as physical locations have closed, cinemas and theatres may also be next in lane to face struggles. Some examples are already being shown as a recent release of the Trolls movie to streaming platforms found a bigger turnover in a number of weeks than a prior cinema release did over a much longer period, and other streaming services such as Disney+ have already announced that some titles that had been prepared for release on the big screen may instead be put out directly onto their streaming platform instead – cinema has already been struggling as low profit margins are filled with the sale of food and drink to cover what ticket sales don’t make up, but if studios decide a stream platform release is more beneficial then the change experienced could be faster than many expect, especially as digital media consumption grows.
It’s a changing of the guard, so to speak, and it’s happening very quickly – many eyes will now be focussed on data that will come following the end of lockdowns across the world to measure the full impact of those looking for alternative media, and the data for the time spent on streaming services across the past few months – but the current data has been clear enough, cable is very much on the way out and it’s looking like the coronavirus may play a part in pushing that schedule further forward.