Gone are the days of the rabbit ears perched precariously on top of a fuzzy TV in hopes of getting a couple channels. The entrance of satellite TV came with huge dishes in the yard of your home just to obtain service, and forget about getting a signal in bad weather. Cable television has been the source of many a family’s entertainment for decades, but is cable joining the relic ranks of rabbit ears and giant satellite dishes?
Many people, called cord cutters,are abandoning pricey cable packages in favor of digital streaming via an internet connection. Already well-known streaming institutions like Netflix and Hulu Plus offer popular shows, older favorites, and a decent selection of movies for rates much lower than even basic cable. With an Amazon Prime membership, customers are given access to a wide variety of both fan-favorite TV shows and Amazon’s entire digital catalog.
Streaming Killed The Cable Stars
The upswing of content available via streaming is a welcome alternative for most people in the United States. Given the status of cable monopolies and the constant battle of “200 channels with nothing to watch”, streaming puts the control of the remote back into the hands of the customer. Cable providers often offer great deals to new customers, with little to no customer loyalty. The end of the promotional period usually brings a drastic rise in prices for most cable customers.
Amazon was on the first to emerge, in 2006, with a significant streaming program, called Amazon Unbox. This service, whose design is now considered archaic, allowed for users to download content to a specific device used for viewing. Rebranded in 2008, Amazon Video on Demand was still considered a substandard service. In 2011, Amazon changed the game with Amazon Instant Video that offered Prime Members special access to “prime only” content and a catalog of over 5000 films available for rental. Content that users purchase is available on every device on which they have the Amazon app.
In 2007, Netflix realized that DVD rental was going by the wayside, and people were favoring their streaming library much more. For little more than the price of a Grande Peppermint Mocha at Starbucks, Netflix allows viewers to catch up on past seasons of popular shows like Sons of Anarchy and Bones. At $7.99 a month, cord cutters consider Netflix a steal in comparison to traditional cable packages. This is not to say that downsides don’t exist, often Netflix content is older than what cable TV has to offer. Most Netflix fans don’t seem to care considering the availability of full series of older shows with which to keep busy.
For the Netflix naysayers, or true TV junkies, enter Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus crashed the streaming party in 2010 and offered current episodes of fan favorites for under $8 per month. While the content on Hulu Plus started out with a couple bugs that provided slow and sometimes pixelated service, it provided a welcome alternative to cable for most customers.
Most of the major networks made their prime time lineups available the day after they aired and allowed for the content to stay there for the whole season, allowing for catch-up if an episode was missed. Between these three giants, cable has become less of a necessity. Most landline telephones are a thing of the past already, so how are cord cutters effecting cable companies’ bottom lines? Most cable providers aren’t exactly shaking in their boots, due to the 100 million families in the US still actively subscribing to cable, but is their lack of fear simply bravado?
Some cable providers have discussed the reality of jacking up internet charges to recoup some of their losses. Recently, HBO and Starz threw their hats into the streaming ring with the announcement of their own streaming products. Starz Play is offered to current customers via the internet for free, but only if you subscribe to the premium channel through your cable company. HBO has, however, flipped the script. They intend to release a “streamingonly” service, where users do not need to have a cable subscription to gain access to the shows shown on the premium network. Quickly following these announcements, Showtime waved the streaming flag as well. They remain tight-lipped but acknowledge that a streaming channel is in the works for 2015 release.
In the world of streaming, one network’s content has remained noticeably absent. CBS favorites aren’t listed within the content available on Hulu Plus, and none of the current shows are making an appearance on Netflix either. Streaming user questions were recently answered when CBS announced the launch of CBS All Access. Not yet available on devices such as Roku or Apple TV, the all-access app will provide the latest episodes as well as past seasons of CBS favorites. Coming in at $2 less than a Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription, there are critics who are saying they’ll watch on their TV for “free”. Nevertheless, CBS All Access is making history by emerging as the first major network to offer a standalone service.
If other networks follow suit, does the potential exist for the streaming community to actually topple to cable television industry?