As cable TV begins a slow fade into oblivion, the fate of TV news and sports is uncertain.
According to Pew Research, 71% of people aged 18-29 get their national and international news from the Internet.
Cable TV Subscriptions Falling
Cable TV subscriptions are in decline worldwide. According to Moffett Research, subscriptions in the US plateaued in 2010 and saw an unprecedented 1% drop in 2013. In the UK, where television owners must pay a tax for owning a TV, the number of people who claimed they owned a TV dropped by 0.6%.
Consumers are cutting the cable TV cord at a rate faster than new subscriptions for the first time.
In the life of any technology this is the time when the most profound changes occur. As customers move toward alternatives, new habits form and old ways are forgotten.
Is Online TV a Viable Alternative?
The transition to online TV has not been smooth. Customers who cut the cord find themselves gaining freedom, saving money and accessing a wealth of content, but they also lose news and sports in the process.
Netflix provides customers with a viable option for sitcoms, documentaries and movies normally found on cable TV. Netflix added 630,000 new subscribers in Q2 2013 and is the dominant player in the online market with 26 million subscribers worldwide. It does not offer news or sports.
Hulu saw record growth in the first half of 2013 reaching 4 million paying subscribers, but is a distant second to Netflix. Hulu offers a product analogous to TV, allowing customers to watch regular TV programming on their own schedule. Hulu offers the standard news and sports content produced by the networks, but has nothing to compete with the 24 hour cable news and sports products commonly found on cable.
YouTube and other video sharing sites allow users to watch video clips and longer content, but the news and sports on these sites is of inconsistent quality and can be hard to find.
Cable TV staples like CNN and ESPN offer content directly on their websites, but it is doubtful most casual channel surfers will bother to add these sites to their routine if they have to leave the walled gardens of Netflix and Hulu to hunt for clips on a search engine.
Some of the premium sports properties, like the NFL, have their own web services. These services are likely to enjoy significant subscribership, but will not likely translate into a broad based solution like the cable TV channels have provided in the past.
The Role of Local TV Stations
The only services offering local and regional news and sports are the local TV stations. Most of these services offer a hodgepodge of disorganized content designed primarily for people who want to watch or share a specific clip. It is doubtful that many users would use these websites as a primary source for their daily fix of news and sports.
We have entered a period of unprecedented fragmentation. Consumers will want an easier platform to “veg out” and watch the news or sports highlights.
Big Opportunities for New Players
MondoPlayer (a service/technology developed by the authors of this blog) offers a way for users to seamlessly watch news, sports and other content in an uninterrupted package similar to TV.
One thing is clear, as the bulk of consumers move away from cable TV to an online environment, they will want many of the services they formerly received in a much easier format than is available today. The early adopters who have begun to move away from cable TV will soon be followed by legions of consumers who will want more that the current services have to offer.
The battle for the hearts and minds of consumers hasn’t been this interesting since the introduction of cable TV in the late 1970’s.