Is It Time for You to Drop Cable TV?

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But in April, media firm Yankee Group found, cable's domination of the expanded TV market might be weakening. One in eight consumers would cut or reduce their pay TV service in the next 12 months, it found.

Cable television packages offer customers so-called "linear" programming: viewers sit in front of the tube and feed on whatever is available at that time. But Benoit Felten, an analyst with Yankee Group, said that model could be going out of style.

"We're starting to see customers who actually realize they don't want linear TV any more," he said. "They come home and they want to watch something specific. They don't want to watch just whatever is on TV."

New products could in particular threaten telephone and cable companies, Felten said, because if people are already in the mood to cherry-pick programming, services such as Apple TV make the process extra easy.

Web Services Let User Cherry-Pick Programming

"To me, the main difference with Apple is we know the ergonomy is going to be absolutely to anyone who wants to use it," he said.

Most of the on-demand programs provided by cable companies are accessed through clunky remotes and require scrolling through more than a dozen pages to find the movie or TV show you want to watch, he said.

"All of that are hindrances to purchase. If there's one thing we know for sure, Apple won't go wrong there," he said.

People who tend to watch mostly TV series or movies might find a better, cheaper alternative in services such as Apple TV than traditional pay TV, he said.

The upsides are that you get to watch whatever you want, whenever you want to watch it. But a key downside is that you have to wait for recent programming and will miss out on live events.

Lack of Live Sports, Limited Content Could Slow Growth

For sports fans in particular, that could be a major problem.

"People who are sensitive to that -- people who are very excited about sports events and want to experience them live -- they won't disconnect from premium TV," he said.

Another limitation, at least for Apple TV, is that consumers can only watch programs from those networks with whom Apple partners.

In announcing the new Apple TV, CEO Steve Jobs said that although only ABC and Fox agreed to rent programs through the service, others would likely join later.

But Felten said it's not a foregone conclusion that others will follow. "TV content owners might think we put a finger into that cog we might get sucked up whole and we'll lose our bargaining power," he said.

Unless Apple TV is an overwhelming success and networks can't afford to not distribute there, they might hold off, which would slow the growth of available content on those platforms.

Still, given the amount you can save (after paying for initial set-up costs), if you know you can get the sports you want to watch online and are open to exploring new territory, going cable-free could be the right choice for you.

"If you're a little adventurous and open to finding these new avenues of programming," NewTeeVee's Roettgers said, "then I think that's a good way to go for you."

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