Consumer Consolidation

There’s a lively debate going on in the comment thread of this article. A lot of “industry insiders” are commenting that basically the article’s author, Farhad Manjoo, isn’t smarter than the TV execs and Manjoo’s pipe-dream is never going to happen. I think we can all understand the likelihood that TV will never end up user-driven and streaming online. It’s roughly zero percent. Consumer will stay tethered to cable only until the older generation dies out. The current generation of TV-watchers are moving more towards Netflix and Hulu (and some other smaller providers) and pirating the premium shows they may still want to watch. Though, to undercut my own argument, I doubt the piracy problem is very big.

Nevertheless, the threat of a streaming revolution is very real. HBO seems to somewhat acknowledge that because if you have a cable subscription, you can use it to log on to HBO.com and stream HBO content. Manjoo takes that idea and the vapid, vaguely dystopic*, internet campaign for HBO to go full streaming a la Netflix/Hulu and he comes up with a questionably mathematic argument for HBO’s inevitable slide away from cable networks.

It seems to come down to just really badly wanting that to happen. Also, some pretty strong rhetoric in favor of it:

…instead HBO is dithering, playing chicken with an unyielding future. How disastrous will this course prove? When HBO finally, inevitably decides to offer non-cable subscription plans, will it be just fashionably late, at a point where it can salvage its future? Or will it be so perilously tardy that it can’t catch up?

Still, if you think about it, it just makes sense. Cable will have a home for some people, but why pay $50-100/month for only a handful of shows? Hulu and Netflix and $8/15-20 per month and you get tons of movies and TV shows, mostly the ones you actually want. So, just think about it, what makes more sense? Hundreds of channels you don’t want at all and feel vaguely embarrassed about even having access to – OWN maybe? Certainly Lifetime. Alternatively, you can have the Criterion Collection, new blockbuster releases, huge blocks of basic cable content and for a whole lot less.

Source (If you’re still interested, the Economist did this up in 2011)

*I think tele-netting and spontaneous dissemination in Infinite Jest. Or wall-watchers in Fahrenheit 451.

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