More Consumers Cut the Cable Cord

(Brian Finke/Getty Images)

Morning Money Memo…

Start streaming. Forget cable. In a major sign of changing consumer tastes, pay-TV operators, including cable television, ended 2013 with their first full-year decline ever.

The research firm SNL Kagan reported 251,000 fewer subscribers. Higher prices, poor service and growing competition from streaming audio are reasons why many consumers are at least thinking about dumping their cable service.

"While seasonally driven quarterly declines have become routine for industry watchers," said SNL Kagen's report, "the annual dip illustrates longer-term downward pressure even as economic conditions gradually improve."

Gaming consoles are closer to becoming home-entertainment hubs. Sony is going the Netflix-route with plans to bring original TV content to the Playstation. The Wall Street Journal reported that Sony Pictures Television will produce the new series - called "Powers" - giving gamers the ability to stream it through the PlayStation Network. Last year, Microsoft, announced plans to team up with Steven Spielberg on an original show that will be made available through the Xbox One.

Fed's Words

Did three little words trip up Janet Yellen? The new Fed chair spoke for an hour at her news conference and indicated little real change in overall policy. The Fed's official statement said it expects to keep short-term rates near zero for "a considerable period." But Yellen suggested an increase might come "around six months" after the Fed wound down its bond buying program. That remark spooked investors. The financial markets - emotional beasts at the best of times - reacted immediately to what Yellen said. Investors are now expecting higher rates sooner than previously forecast. That sent stocks and gold prices lower Wednesday and bond yields higher.

GM Blowback From Toyota Fine?

General Motors could have plenty to worry about after Toyota agreed to pay a record fine to avoid criminal charges.

"Other car companies should not repeat Toyota's mistake," warned U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

A four-year investigation into cases of sudden unintended acceleration found examples of "blatant misrepresentations" by Toyota. The settlement came just one week after the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into GM's delayed recall of 1.6 million vehicles linked to faulty ignition switches. The problems were first reported more than a decade ago, but the recall was ordered only last month.

Target: California

International criminal enterprises follow the money, and a new report says they are increasingly focusing on California. The report being released today by California Attorney General Kamala Harris says criminals are turning to cybercrime to target businesses and financial institutions. It calls California the top U.S. target for organizations that often operate from safe havens in Eastern Europe, Africa and China. The report estimates that more than $30 billion is laundered through California businesses each year.

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