While many will call me crazy, (it wouldn't be the first time) I do in fact think that the $65 I spend on cable TV each month provides me with the best choice and video quality for the money spent. Of course, that's not fashionable to say as these days, the media and many in the online video industry take advantage of every opportunity they get to complain about how expensive their cable bill is or their perceived lack of content choices. But the fact is, cable TV provides an experience online video will never replace.
Of course some will be quick to comment that I sound like an out of touch cable exec or someone not watching what's taking place in the market. But the fact is, I routinely consume online video via almost thirty devices, use every online video subscription and pay-per-use service in the market and test many of these products, platforms and services before they even come to the market. I eat, sleep and breathe over-the-top video. But right now, I don't see any combination of devices, services and platforms that are even going to come close to replacing cable TV in the next few years. Disruption? Yes, but only to a limit and not replacement.
Of course some are going to point to the number of "cord cutters" and will be quick to point to stats that show these cord cutters to be in the six-figure range. Yet these same people never talk about what percentage of the overall market these cord cutters make up, which is well less than 1% of cable TV subscribers today. Of course cable TV is not for everyone and in some cases, it is a waste of money if you don't watch a lot of TV, care about sports, live news or only care about watching one or two shows. But for the vast majority of the 100 million plus cable subscribers in America, who pay on average $75 a month for their cable, they do find it worth the money.
Of course I know many will disagree with me and that's fine. I love hearing people's opinions on the topic but I can't stand the fact that right now, anyone who says they like paying their cable TV bill is thought of as someone who does not "get it". This was the same mentality that permeated the market when in 2000, the entire industry was talking about "convergence" and how in a few years the TV and Internet would be one platform. And if you didn't agree with that consensus back then, you were though of as an idiot. Yet eleven years later, all we have is a fragmented TV platform with many, many years of work ahead of us before it really comes to fruition. Lets stay grounded in reality this time.
The fact remains that for $65 a month, cable TV provides me with more content choices and better video quality than I can get online, over-the-top or via any of the online video subscription and pay-per-use services. I pay Verizon $95.99 a month for a FiOS triple play bundle of phone, 25Mbps Internet service and cable. Of that $95.99 a month, the cable portion of my bill is $57.99 a month and rounds out to around $65 with taxes. When I turn on my TV I never have to wonder what the quality will be or if I can find the show in HD. The fact is TV is convenient, it always works and that's why so many people pay for the service each month. The same can't be said for over-the-top services and other forms of online content.
The last time I went to the movies it cost $28 for two tickets. At that rate, I could go to about two movies a month with my wife, or have cable TV for 30 days. Of course lots of folks talk about over-the-top services replacing cable TV, but if I got subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, MLB and bought two shows a week on iTunes, that would cost almost $64 a month, the same as my cable bill. And I still would not be able to get local MLB games, other live sports, news or many of the shows I want in HD.
Over-the-top video services will always be subject to potential quality issues, buffering, lack of an HD source or many of the other things that plague these Internet based services. The Internet is not capable of supporting the kind of quality and viewership that cable TV supports, period. Of course that's something that many want to debate by saying that P2P protocols or some other kind of technology will fix the problem, but it won't.
Cable is all about convenience. I have dozens of channels and hundreds of shows all in one place and many stored on my DVR. I don’t want to have to buy shows from multiple sites, or subscribe to multiple services, nor do I want to have to use my PC to find shows to send to another box connected to my TV. I want to sit down on the sofa, pick up a remote to navigate through a simple program guide and DVR interface (TiVo) to choose the shows I want to watch. Easy. I also don’t like the idea of buying or leasing episodes of a show from iTunes that I may or may not like. With cable I can simply change the channel.
I watch a lot of TV, have about 50 season passes in my TiVo and for the money I spend each month, there is no other video service that even comes close to what cable TV offers in the way of choice and quality. Some in the industry are going to say that my role in the industry is to promote the adoption of online video and the value it provides in the market. And while they are right, my first job is to set expectations properly. And today, for the average consumer, cable TV is still one of the best choices in the market for quality and convenience.