Cable’s relevance has been noticeably decreasing for the past four years due to the increase in popularity of streaming online. Streaming is so easy due to the hundreds of websites (some legal, some not) with databases of thousands of television shows and movies. While Cable has its perks, streaming is easier for the upcoming generation which makes buying a Cable subscription less important. Once Cable loses its monopoly on broadcasting sports and television shows in real time, streaming will be able to take over completely. The ease of streaming will soon lead to the irrelevance of Cable.
As our society continues to evolve, things that were once great innovations seem to have become obsolete. New innovations have been replacing old norms for centuries, but this hurts the companies that were once the providers of these norms. In recent years, cable has been rumored to be in danger of becoming unnecessary in households. With easy access to sites such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon prime, the need for cable seems to be decreasing. Business insider foreshadows, “We’re at the beginning of a major historical shift from watching TV to watching video — including TV shows and movies — on the internet or on mobile devices.” Cable networks broadcasting television shows are rightfully becoming a thing of the past allowing the internet to take its place as the foremost provider of shows.
There are ways to watch thousands of shows online whether it be for free, by subscription, or illegally. Currently, according to Debate.org, 60% of the public believes that cable will be obsolete in five years due to these websites. The Business Insider created a graph outlining just how much society has been changing the broadcasting market within the past few years.
One majorly popular database for television shows and movies currently is Netflix, however all of these are old shows or non-current seasons of ongoing shows. They offer thousands of titles, but require a monthly subscription to watch these titles. Even when many of these titles were removed due to conflicts with contracts, Netflix still maintained a client base due to the ease of their product. Another site that offers titles based on a subscription is Amazon prime. Though Netflix and Amazon prime require subscriptions, there are plenty of legal free websites that offer titles. Hulu is a site that allows its viewers to watch more current shows that have aired on TV recently. Though the amount of seasons and episodes of a show offered on Hulu vary, they also offer some clips from the show and behind the scenes moments. CBS and FX network are also legal sites that viewers can go to see current television shows the week after they air. If these sites don’t have the show or that you are searching for, there are also plenty of illegal websites in which you could download and watch just about any show your heart desires. The illegal websites tend to be lower quality, but for those who don’t want to pay for cable, Netflix or Amazon prime and can’t find it legally, it is the ideal option. Though it is technically against the law to download these shows without the proper payment or using the proper website, there is little to no punishment for the crime so pirating these shows is common among many people. With access to all of these websites and databases, the internet has created a large catalog of shows that the public can access easily and for little money.
Cable is not allowing the internet to take their customers out from under them and is doing what they can to prevent their company from going under. One thing that Cable (such as Comcast or Time Warner) offers that is not available online, is live streaming, or the live broadcast of shows. Only someone with these types of Cable networks can watch the new episode of their favorite show live, or even the next day. Broadcasting companies also wait a week to put the new episode online, so if it is extremely important to watch the episode that day, cable is a must. Netflix has found a way to fight this by releasing brand new seasons only onto Netflix forcing anyone who wants to see the new season of their favorite show to buy a subscription. Wired specifies the success of the new seasons of Arrested Development and House of Cards. However, Cable networks (such as ESPN) use their broadcast of live sports as their main line of defense. The only way to watch the Super Bowl or catch the baseball game is to pay for cable. It could be found online after the game is over, but the thrill of sports is not knowing who will win or what will happen. This is how cable networks like ESPN are going to get the business of many of the households just starting up. They won’t need cable for the television shows, but they will be willing to pay to watch their favorite sports teams play live. Another bonus of cable is that the shows are played on a large screen with great sound. It is no trouble to just press play on your DVR and have your show play with no trouble. Though there are cables available to hook up a computer to a television, it is a hassle and it is easier to just use the features cable offers. Furthermore, many cable networks also offer internet access which could allow them to more easily prevent the pirating of shows and movies. However, if cable networks were to ban all pirating websites, it would have a similar reaction to the proposal of SOPA: an uproar in society. It could be seen as a way to try and monopolize the broadcasting market, so cable networks have not tried yet. Though despite cable’s best efforts, according to a graph created by Business Insider, cable has lost about 5 million customers within the last fifteen quarters (about 4 years).
The graph above is measuring subscribers based on the thousands. Cable is coming close to subscribing to less than 40 million homes which is going to be detrimental to Cable companies. Although cable networks are still losing business, their live broadcasting of shows and sports are the main things that give cable a fighting chance.
Cable networks focused on broadcasting television shows should slowly die out for a while because of the generational gaps that are happening. Different generations are placing different priorities on the need for cable. College students have no real use for cable networks like Comcast. They watch the same shows online sitting on their bed or at their desk because they don’t have access to a television to watch anything. If they want to watch a game, they can find it in a common room or at the student center. Though this is annoying because they cannot multitask as they watch, it is worth it. Those few lucky college students with televisions have to decide whether to buy cable or to buy a cord that can connect their computer to the monitor. However, if they chose the latter, they cannot use their laptop as they watch, and they have to walk over to the television to press pause or rewind. The young adults just moving into households, are most likely only going to buy cable to get the sports networks to be able to watch games. Though, some more expensive televisions have internet capabilities directly on the television and most of the young adults will watch their shows using that. The main reason cable will die slowly is because most of the adults currently paying for cable don’t know how to use these new sites and television features and won’t bother trying to learn. However, once these generation is gone, cable networks such as ESPN might hold on for a while, but those similar to Comcast and Time Warner will be in some serious danger.
Cable’s fight to stay relevant and needed is working for now, however soon the internet will most likely make the need for Cable nonexistent. The slow demise into irrelevance of cable networks that broadcast shows are not the only innovations that were tossed aside. Movies are also having the same issue because why pay to go to the movies when you can find it online later. Newspapers started dying after they put all of the same information online for free. Music has had issues with making money for a long time because people are able to listen as much as they want on YouTube for free or even illegally download it instead of buying it off of iTunes. All of this new innovation hurts the companies that were once providing a service that was greatly requested and seemingly required. As long as Cable does not release the rights to allow the internet to show a live stream of any sports games, cable networks such as ESPN should have a fighting chance. Innovation and growth is important for a society, and although it might hurt some companies, it is necessary to move forward.
Debate.org. “Dish-Disney Deal: Will Cable TV Be Obsolete in the next 5 Years?” The Premier Online Debate Website. N.p., n.d. Web.
Edwards, Jim. “TV Is Dying, And Here Are The Stats That Prove It.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 24 Nov. 2013. Web.
Wohlsen, Marcus. “When TV Is Obsolete, TV Shows Will Enter Their Real Golden Era | WIRED.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 13 May 2014. Web.