Streaming services are where I watch most of my content, but I struggle to officially cut the cord while I contemplate the future of streaming.
Let’s be real, I’m not the only one with this thought. I know many of my friends and family members are in the same boat also. Do we keep our TV service active, is it worth it to keep it as part of our package or should we just cut the cord? In either case, the fact remains, we simply do not watch broadcast TV anymore. For the off chance we do, it may be just for live sports. So, what’s keeping us back from officially cutting the cord on broadcast TV, what does the future look like if we can simply stream everything we want to watch? To answer these questions, I first started by jotting down my personal patterns of “content consumption” – my fancy phrase for what I watch and how I watch it, and then researching the industry to create a theory on where we can go next. I felt recognizing my own patterns was important as it helps us understand the “end user” and while just monitoring my patterns may seem narrow in scope, I can assure you many people share most – if not all—my habits and I’m confident you all will relate in some form too. So, let’s begin by what I noticed about myself.
Let’s start with my consumption patterns
I have been taking note of my patterns for almost 4 years now and right off the bat, I noticed my broadcast TV watching has dwindled down from over a few hours a day to now only two hours or so a month. I realized I wasn’t channel surfing like I used to find a good show and that’s partly due to the fact that a DVR was sort of my lifeline. I would go and schedule all my shows ahead of time and would only turn on my cable box to watch those recorded shows. However, after I consumed all my recorded shows, I would then maybe resort to channel surfing and land on something like HGTV. Slowly I noticed that I eventually stopped recording live TV shows on my DVR all together and migrated into streaming services. I started with Netflix as my gateway drug into streaming and was quickly hooked on the content and the shows. What reeled me in further was when shows were released, the whole season was available in its entirety on release. This was something we could never experience with live TV shows. We had to wait several weeks for the DVR shows to build up enough where we could watch episodes back to back. Needless to say, it was a waiting game. But having a streaming service like Netflix allowed us to binge.
Today my portfolio of streaming services includes Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus. With these streaming services in tow, I have never been back to broadcast TV at all. The only time I even think of watching live TV is for my local sports, and but even that is rare as I can easily watch that online or with Hulu, now that they have live sports as an option. With Hulu, I can even continue watching some live TV shows too. Yeah, they would come in a day later or so but the best part about watching it on Hulu versus live TV was that you can rewind and fast forward all you want, as if you didn’t have DVR and more importantly you can watch it anywhere you had an internet connection. This was before TV providers began offering the service to download your recordings on the go. If anything, Hulu forced TV providers to take that step. Today, there is enough content on these 4 streaming services, where I would be hard pressed to even look at live TV ever again. One may ask what about news channels? I say I read most of my news on my phone and social media, if I need to watch clips I usually just head to YouTube.
So what keeps us from cutting the cord
With the streaming services so prevalent in today’s society, some may even question whether it’s worth it to keep broadcast TV around. As you can see from my patterns, it doesn’t make sense for me to keep it going and pay for the service but there are few reasons people still hesitate today. The number one reason I hear people refrain from fully cutting the cord is the package they are signed up for. They usually are locked into 2-year contracts that prevents them from cancelling without a fee or the package price is so good that getting rid of some services doesn’t make sense. I’ll give you a great example. I currently have a 275 plus channel TV package and 1gbps internet speed coming into my house. I pay about $140 for this service. I subscribe to the 1gbps speed due to sheer number of personal devices in my house among the 4 people that there and all the high-tech gear that eat up the rest of the bandwidth. So, I need the speed to make sure everything runs smoothly. I mention this because if I were to cut out TV from my package and just keep the internet, with the 1gbps speed I require, my bill would be $100. The reason I keep the TV package around is for live sports that are not local. Due to this fact, when I need live sports, I would need to upgrade to the Hulu Live TV package which costs about $50/month (for a total of $150 for internet and live TV). If I go with having just the internet and Hulu Live TV, I would actually end up paying more money overall out of pocket than just keeping the package. Not to mention the Hulu TV package only comes with a handful of channels. About 60 channels. Also, with TV providers allowing people to stream their TV service with an active internet connection, Hulu loses that one advantage it originally had over TV providers. While I still subscribe to Netflix and Prime Video, sports are a big part of my life and not just one type of sport, I watch everything from basketball to football to baseball and it would be way more expensive to subscribe to each individual sports app separately.
Given this situation it would make little sense to cancel my TV and internet package with my provider. In this particular situation, since I require live sports and the increased internet speed, the price makes it tough to cut the cable and while sports may not be on everyone’s requirement list, a higher internet speed is becoming more and more of a requirement for everyone. We simply have more than one device per person on average and with higher resolution screens, bigger video files, and higher bandwidth, speed is a requirement. Internet packages themselves can sometime be too expensive on their own than in packages, and therefore providers can keep you locked in. However, given the shift to streaming services becoming production houses of original content, the push for streaming will only continue to put pressure on traditional TV providers and it will continue to evolve the TV landscape.
The future of streaming TV and what it could entail
Because of the continued evolution to streaming is unstoppable, I began to realize there are a few issues we still need to deal with. First, how do we deal with the issue of outdated equipment. It was crappy news when some realized they could not get Disney Plus on their TVs or streaming devices, which they paid big money for and simply expected it to work. Vizio said they would work on an update but Samsung flat out said TV’s manufactured before a certain year just wouldn’t be able to receive the Disney Plus app, and undoubtedly that pissed off a lot of people. Is this a problem we will have to face in the future? Most people who buy TVs expect to keep it anywhere from 7-10 years, but today TVs are starting to function more like TVs with operating systems/apps that constantly get updates, then one day simply become incompatible with other apps or support with other devices rendering them useless. So, are we looking at a future where we are updating our TVs to keep them new, so we can keep receiving the latest apps and connecting to the latest hardware? It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it seems like to could be possible. Not to mention there seems to be a new TV technology announced every few years anyway.
Now with regard to streaming services and apps, every time a new service is launched or let’s say a production house decides it makes sense to create their own service, there could be a point where we start subscribing to each individual production house, which is kind of what we are already doing today. For example, if we want to watch Game Of Thrones, we have to subscribe to HBO GO, if we want to watch Stranger Things we need to sign up with Netflix, and now if we want to watch The Mandalorian we need Disney Plus. Does this mean if each production house created their own app, we would have to sign up to each one just to watch a single show that we were interested in? That is essentially like picking certain channels you’d want with a TV provider instead of subscribing to a whole package of channels.
Not that I care so much about this aspect, but what would TV ads look like in the future? If each production house did happen to make its own app/streaming service it could change the landscape of movies and television forever. Instead of going to the movies, it may just be the norm to have a limited theater release and then permanently place it in the streaming service. This is obviously me theorizing but it’s interesting to see what direction all this could go in.
While streaming services are clearly the future, I can understand the hesitation some may have with officially cutting the cord and also the frustration of having many streaming services to sign up for. It will definitely be interesting to see what direction streaming services will take on a path to total domination, but for now I do see some glaring issues that need to be addressed and fixed. TV providers will want to stay in business and try to attract people back with packages. However, with streaming services making original content more and more, it will be an uphill battle. Upgrading and keeping up to date with technology can be an issue that still needs to get solved especially as more and more services start popping up. Lastly, will having multiple services to subscribe to eventually hit a breaking point with subscribers and spawn something new in the world of entertainment. For now, however, I think I will continue to keep my streaming services and broadcast TV services intact and observe the landscape before even I officially pull the plug.