Think about how you consume television. Do you still pay for cable and enjoy the hundreds of channels it offers? Do you rely on cable for sports and local news, and supplement it with streaming services for movies and entertainment? Or, have you joined the cable-cutting movement and invested in your favorite streaming platform (or platforms) of choice?
With a multitude of options available, it seems as if everyone has a preferred method for consuming content these days. Not only that, but there are so many options for curated content. There are niche services for horror flick fans, anime aficionados and indie cinema connoisseurs. Even Kevin Hart has his own streaming platform.
But is the streaming trend here to stay? Niche platforms aside (we’ve already seen some crumble, including three from WarnerMedia in 2018), the overall answer is a resounding “yes.” The truth is that consumers prefer the options offered by on-demand streaming platforms.
According to data from 2018, only 38% of pay-TV subscribers considered themselves “very” or “completely” happy with their service. The number of cable cutters — the group de jour of consumers who have completely cut their subscriptions to cable and satellite TV — was projected to reach 33 million by 2018.
The Rise Of Streaming Services
In 1979, the FCC granted homeowners the right to possess satellites without a federal government license. It wasn’t until the mid-90s, however — when satellites and services such as PrimeStar and DirecTV became accessible and affordable — that the popularity of satellite TV grew.
For the next decade or so, the recognizable satellites become a ubiquitous piece of home entertainment hardware. Rather than rely on network television, consumers were introduced to a brand new world of entertainment that emphasized selection and choice.
This all changed in 2007 when Netflix came up with the simple but genius premise: Why not deliver entertainment directly to computers? Over the last decade, Netflix has cemented itself as one of the fastest growing companies. In fact, as of publication in early 2019, Netflix has nearly 150 million subscribers.
Binge-watching has become the societal norm.
In the days before binge-watching — the societal phenomenon that both you and I are guilty of — we would eagerly await the weekly release of a new episode of their favorite series. We even had this little thing called TV Guide to tell us exactly when to tune in to watch Cheers, The Simpsons or Seinfeld.
Now more than ever, people demand curated content at all times. They expect to be able to consume what they want on their own terms. Like satellite TV, subscription-based services such as Netflix offer myriad programming. However, the difference is that it’s available anytime and anywhere with an internet connection.
This has ushered in the era of binge-watching — and for all I can tell, it’s here to stay.
Are you a cord cutter, a cord shaver or a cord never?
This level of customization has created three subcategories of TV viewers. Which one are you?
• Cord Shavers
Cord shavers are at the early stage of their decision process to replace cable with streaming services. They still pay for cable or satellite TV but choose to supplement these options with various streaming services.
It should come as no surprise that the most widely distributed cable channels (such as CNN and ESPN) have lost millions of subscribers over the years. Part of this decline, however, can be attributed to cord shavers who are signing up for cheaper packages that do not include some of the aforementioned heavy hitters.
• Cord Cutters
Cord cutters, on the other hand, have cut cable from their lives indefinitely and consume content exclusively on streaming services. The number of cord cutters grew by 32.8% percent in 2018. And that number keeps growing; up to 55.1 million are projected to join the cable exodus by 2022.
So, where are cord cutters congregating? Research shows that in 2017, 57% of cord cutters (unsurprisingly) used Netflix, 50% used YouTube and 37% used Amazon.
• Cord Nevers
Much like digital natives — the group of people that have grown up in the digital age — cord nevers were born into an environment without cable. They’ve never paid for cable TV services and assumedly never will. And they view content exclusively on streaming services.
Cord cutters have an average age of 43 and account for 8% of the U.S. population, while cord nevers have an average age of 34 and represent 9% of the population. However, as younger generations become decision makers, this number will only grow.
How does this impact the media landscape?
It’s easy to assume that providers like Netflix will continue to thrive in the foreseeable future. Numbers aside, they’re simply innovating faster than their competitors.
For example, films like Roma and Birdbox — both distributed by Netflix — indicate that the company is making waves in the movie industry. The former, a feature from acclaimed director Alfonso Cuaron, racked up numerous Oscar nominations. The latter, a post-apocalyptic thriller featuring Sandra Bullock, is reported to have reached 45 million people. Additionally, the choose-your-own-adventure sci-fi thriller “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” illustrates that the media company is willing to experiment with immersive, innovative mediums.
Who knows what the future holds. Interestingly enough, most traditional TV providers integrate with Netflix or similar streaming service. What’s more, an increasing number of TV and streaming partnerships are expected in the future.
We’ll see exactly which direction the TV industry goes. What I can say is that, much like preceding generations, the landscape will be virtually unrecognizable in the next ten years.
What are your thoughts on the future of TV? Do you miss thumbing through TV Guide? Or, have you fully embraced the convenience of digital streaming?