#cable television

Benedict Evans:

The really big question here is how TV viewing would change if you did move from the current model of TV as a largely undirected, passive experience, to one that required (/’allowed’) you to make choices. If you come home and turn on a random piece of generic light entertainment you’ll watch it, but you might never choose to watch it, much less search for it. So is that a bundling problem or a recommendation problem? Should we think of TV viewing hours as propped up by filler shows in the same way that CD albums were full of filler tracks, and that if we go to a fluid on-demand environment people might just stop watching that filler? Or would the right passive programming system - ‘Pandora for TV’ replace one passive experience with another, more tailored and targeted one, with the greater accessibility of long-tail content taking up the slack? Of course, a lot of TV channel branding and programming is about just this - in effect a lot of TV is ‘Pandora for TV’. Either way, this is really about unbundling shows from TV channels, not unbundling channels (or on-demand channel brands) from cable TV subscriptions. And (looking back to Netflix) how would that cascade back though the TV production system? How many fewer shows might be made? How would they be funded? And what would happen to the ‘golden age of TV’?

These are all good questions that likely point to the reason why television hasn’t been disrupted yet. In many ways, television (largely meaning cable television) stumbled into the perfect system to placate the bored/lazy/etc masses. And now that there’s actually great content on as well, it’s serving to stimulate the other side.

Netflix and the like are slowly changing the equation, but until you have a system that offers both better content and replicates the “turn on, tune out” mode, cable television is here to stay.

"Choice" is sometimes a curse disguising itself as a blessing. 

Cliff Edwards on Intel’s progress in making a cable TV competitor:

Time Warner Cable and other pay-TV operators are offering incentives to media companies to withhold content from Web-based entertainment services such as the one Intel is pursuing, people with knowledge of the matter said this month. The incentives can take the form of higher payments, or they can include threats to drop programming, the people said then.

Total jackassery.

Todd Spangler on the most recent cable television numbers:

Q1 is historically one of the strongest periods for pay TV providers. But the 176,000 net adds in the most recent quarter came in at less than half the totals for the sector in the previous three years, according to Bazinet’s calculations. The industry added 403,000 in the first quarter of 2012; 483,000 in Q1 2011; and 507,000 in Q1 2010.

Indeed, the four largest publicly held MSOs in the States — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems — collectively lost 208,000 video subscribers in Q1 2013, exactly double the 104,000 they dropped in the year-earlier period.

I sense a trend. And if my math is correct, that trend is not a good one for cable television.

[via @ryanlawler]

Peter Kafka for AllThingsD:

Good news for Netflix! The company streamed more than 4 billion hours of video in the first three months of the year, according to a Facebook post from CEO Reed Hastings.

BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield crunches those numbers (registration required), and concludes that this makes Netflix the equivalent of the most-watched cable TV network: He figures there are 28 million U.S. Netflix subscribers watching an average of 87 minutes of Netflix per day, or 43 hours per month. That puts it on par with the Disney Channel.

The future continues to reveal itself.

Russell Holly for Geek.com:

Ad revenue from a healthy YouTube channel can be enough to keep an operation of 2-3 people happy, but these new channels are significantly larger scale operations with budgets that can only be reached with the help of some guaranteed monthly cash. To help keep the quality of this new content trending upwards, Google plans to offer certain channels the ability to charge a monthly fee for their content.

I, for one, welcome our new subscription television overlords. You pay for what you want to watch rather than hundreds of channels of bullshit you couldn’t possibly watch even if you wanted to. $1-$5 a month per show. A fair price. What a concept.

Google wants to get into the cable TV business, according to Sam Schechner and Amir Efrati of The Wall Street Journal. If Google thought Google TV was a nightmare, wait until they try to do this…

That said, good for them. Cable television is basically a monopoly business in this country. One service provider usually owns all the access in any given area and as such, can charge whatever they want. It’s bullshit, and no one has done anything about it for decades. Google is apparently going to try to shake things up from the other side.

And while I think they’ll find it to be a nightmare, it does make some sense. Google is now basically an advertising company. And where is the most money in advertising still? Television.

If they won’t partner with you, kick them in the nuts and steal their business. Or die trying.