#cable

Andrea Chang on the rise of YouTube as a star-making platform:

That has upended the way viewers, particularly those in the prized younger demographic, watch content: YouTube now reaches more U.S. adults ages 18 to 34 than any cable network, according to Nielsen.

That’s staggering. Imagine what it means for cable television five or ten years from now…

And imagine how much every television/media company would be willing to pay for YouTube right now if it were an independent entity…

Both infuriating and in a way, hilarious. The crazy thing is that not only have many of us had equally bad (though different) experiences with Comcast, many of us with loud microphones have as well, like Ryan Block here. And yet, Comcast keeps growing and sucking up all in its path.

Comcast undoubtedly would say that’s because our incidents are isolated and people love Comcast. That, of course, is bullshit. It’s because there is little-to-no competition in the market. In many places, if you want television and/or internet, you need to sign up for Comcast. And Comcast buying Time Warner Cable is only going to make that worse. 

Ralph Vartabedian on cable boxes:

The seemingly innocuous appliances — all 224 million of them across the nation — together consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock. They have become the biggest single energy user in many homes, apart from air conditioning.

A set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. The devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on.

Insane. The title, however is incorrect. The correct title should be: Piece of Shit Cable TV Boxes Become 2nd Bigger Energy Users In Many Homes.

David Carr on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal:

Foremost, Comcast already has a huge regulatory win in the bank. Its proposed acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2009 was met with abundant skepticism, with consumer advocates contending that control over both so much content and distribution gave it too much market power. The company maneuvered its way past those hurdles and won approval by making some concessions and commitments, and it is in an even stronger position today.

Consider that one of the Federal Communications Commission regulators who approved the NBCUniversal deal, Meredith Attwell Baker, now works for Comcast as a lobbyist. Since that deal, there has been a change in leadership at the commission, and it is now run by Tom Wheeler, who was previously a chief lobbyist for the cable industry. (Comcast is among the biggest spenders on lobbying, having written checks for $18 million in 2013 alone.)

The deck is absolutely stacked for this deal to happen. Which is, of course, total bullshit. Continues Carr:

Cable is a necessary evil that works best when we can exercise consumer choice. I live in northern New Jersey and used to be a Comcast customer — I dumped it after one of its technicians pointed to the cable running through the trees and said I might not have a great connection when the wind was blowing. I switched to Verizon FiOS’s fiber-optic service and have been very happy since. (Not cheap, but it works.) When, you might ask, will the fiber-optic future arrive at your house? How about never? Does never sound good?

No, it does not. But much of the cable market has already been divided up — as the executives behind the merger noted, Time Warner and Comcast do not overlap in any markets, and Verizon has previously agreed not to expand. Comcast, which will now have less competition, will have less motivation to invest in building out infrastructure like fiber-optic networks at the expense of its shareholders.

It’s not so much that Comcast is stifling some existing competition here — it’s that they’re ensuring there will never be any competition to speak of. And even if this monopolist is benevolent, they’ll have no true incentive to push innovation forward. And that hurts us all in so many more ways than just our checkbooks.

Yankees To Buy Red Sox

True story: this evening, I found myself at a Comcast event. I drank the free booze. Had some hors d’oeuvres. Watched some 4K Super Ultra HD.1 Grand old regular night.

Nope.

Awkward.

Here’s the thing: the people who work at Comcast all seem nice enough. They are human beings after all. And I’d never begrudge anyone from earning a living. But Comcast as an entity is like a horror story of regulation gone bad.

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Joe Flint on the report that Netflix’s recent gains was because competitors like HBO and Showtime were on the decline:

“The research is simply incorrect. Both HBO and Cinemax services have shown significant domestic subscriber growth the past two years,” an HBO spokesman said. In 2012, HBO said it added 1.9 million subscribers and it expects a similar figure for 2013.

Okay, but Netflix added 2.3 million subscribers last quarter. HBO and Showtime may not be declining, but Netflix is a rocket ship compared to them when it comes to growth — and that has to be concerning to both of those companies.

And it’s why they’re going to have to go direct-to-consumer as well at some point. Probably sooner than they think.

Content, Content, Content

Intel just sold its unreleased television service to Verizon. TiVo just shuttered its hardware business. Google TV flopped. Boxee sold out. Aereo keeps getting sued. Roku keeps trying new things. Netflix keeps spending wildly. Amazon more wildly still. And where on Earth is that Apple television?

Where’s the future of television we’ve been promised every year for the past decade? It always seems to be coming “next year”. And I have a hunch that 2014 may be no different.

Here’s the thing: there isn’t actually a technology problem in this space. That is, while the current solutions offered by the cable providers mainly suck, they suck because they can suck. Big Cable is holding all the cards. And they know it.

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Dawn C. Chmielewski:

The newly installed Hulu executive team is believed to already be pursuing deals with cable operators to offer subscribers access to Hulu as a way to watch current shows online, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.

The team also may seek to use these same pay-TV providers to sell subscriptions to Hulu Plus, which extends TV viewing to Internet-connected game consoles and televisions as well as to smartphones and tablets.

The play-nice-with-the-cable-guys strategy marks a shift in emphasis for Hulu, a site that launched in March 2008 with big ambitions to change the TV world by providing free online access to popular TV shows.

Meet the new boss, not exactly the same as the old boss, but the exact same as the old old boss. Disappointing. 

Shalini Ramachandran and Thomas Gryta:

AT&T and Verizon are now the fifth and sixth biggest pay-TV providers in the U.S. after Comcast and Time Warner Cable and the two satellite-TV companies, DirecTV and Dish Network Corp.

And rising — fast.

Fascinating that it will be the shady wireless guys pushing slimy cable guys. But hey, any competition (which the cable industry has lacked, and has left them ill-prepared) is good, right?

Kevin Fitchard:

AT&T hopes to breath new life into some old airwaves by building a broadcast network, ideal for pushing out live video to many multiple devices with out jamming up its pipes with traffic. The technology is called LTE-Broadcast, and as it name implies it turns what is normally a two-way mobile broadband network into a one-way multicast network similar to those used by TV broadcasters.

As I was talking about the other day, beyond cord-cutters, the cable companies have to watch out for the wireless players, who are increasingly aligning for a collision course. And those guys have an advantage in that everyone already has a phone — including the “cord-nevers” — and there are no wires/installation required.

Ian King:

Henely, 23, instead watches shows and movies streamed from Netflix, Amazon.com or directly from broadcasters’ websites, using a computer hooked up to the TV in her home. She’s known in industry parlance as a cord never, meaning she hasn’t ever subscribed to pay TV: channels from a cable company, such as Comcast, or a satellite provider like DirecTV, or phone companies — and she doesn’t ever intend to.

And:

David Heasty, a 34-year-old graphic designer, gets older episodes of shows like “Breaking Bad” over the Internet and watches them on his computer screen. He’s never had a TV subscription and pays Time Warner Cable about $50 a month for broadband only — though he said he would spend more if he was allowed to pay for only the channels or shows he wants. “It’s not a money thing, it never was,” said the Brooklyn, New York, resident, who runs his own business. “It’s a good thing for the companies to ponder. They’re missing out on an audience.”

It’s not actually the “cord cutters” that should be a concern for the cable companies, it should be the “cord nevers”. These young people are likely never going to sign up for a cable television subscription because they get more than enough content elsewhere without cable television.

And actually, that should be more of a concern for the traditional Hollywood establishment, because many of these people are still paying the cable companies to get internet. For those guys, the challenge is the wireless companies. If data and tethering becomes fast and affordable enough, that could be very problematic. Why pay for another internet service? Why mess around with any cables?

And the second point there is more important than the first. The predominant thought has been that cable television is too expensive — which it is — but that’s not what’s driving some cord cutters and cord nevers. For example, I haven’t had cable for years now. It’s not because I can’t afford it. It’s because there’s so much content elsewhere, why bother subscribing to yet another source that I’ll rarely use?

We’re inundated with options to entertain ourselves now. Cable just isn’t as interesting — or convenient — as it once was.