Cable Sees Its Worst Subscriber Loss, Which Makes Perfect Sense

Cable suffered its worst video loss, shedding 711,000 video subscribers in the second quarter, as six of the eight biggest cable firms reported their most dismal three-month period. Overall, cable, satellite TV and telecom providers shed 216,000 video customers in Q2 compared with a 378,000 gain in the same period a year earlier.

SNL Kagan estimates that almost 3 million U.S. households will use Hulu and other Web TV options as their primary video solution by the end of the year, up from 1.5 million in 2009. For 2011, the company expects that figure to hit 4.3 million. (There are about 115 million TV households in the States.)

– Cable’s decline an incentive for Yahoo, Hulu deal

This has been a long time coming, of course. People can only put with with subpar customer service and expensive, overstuffed channel packages for so long. Add to that the rise of Web-enabled TVs with apps that allow streaming from Netflex, Vudu, YouTube and Hulu and you’ve got all kinds of reason to dump traditional cable.

Mad Men on iTunes

No AMC? We've decided 'Mad Men' is worth paying for, so we get new episodes via iTunes.

Here’s how it’s been working at my house this summer after a move necessitated dumping Comcast. Now we get the four major networks, in HD, and any of their secondary digital channels over-the-air via digital antenna for free. We supplement  that with an $11 per month Netflix subscription, which gets us one DVD or Blu-ray at a time, plus unlimited streaming of Netflix’s Watch Instantly library.

We access streaming content via our Samsung Blu-ray player, which comes equipped with a Netflix app, along with other services like Wal-Mart’s Vudu, Blockbuster, Pandora and YouTube. It’s connected to the Web with our $35 per month SuddenLink high-speed Internet access.

Any other shows we’re missing, we can always connect the MacBook Pro to the TV to access iTunes content or, really, anything else out there for free on Web.

We realize this model is not ideal for everyone — “Where’s ESPN?” many will say. But it works well for us right now. For the most part, we watch what we want when we want. And some days we don’t watch anything, which is nice too!

Of course, we also realize this model won’t be sustainable — that is, as cable companies, telecoms and Internet companies move more and more distribution to the Web, paywalls are likely to go up. And don’t forget that those same companies (including, some say, Google) are desperately angling for some type of tiered Internet, with multiple packages offering varying levels of speed and access for a price. That would suck for myriad reasons. But it’s also probably inevitable.


Little Rock mad man Ross Cranford is hardcore. He doesn’t even watch TV! Well, not like you and me at least. See him take all this a step beyond on his TV Free Me blog.


One Response

  1. I could live with that (your setup), but I’m pretty sure the wife and kids would mutiny. We have Cox cable, and they constantly advertise their “award winning” customer service, but I have quite a few horror stories that contradict that.

    The thing that really irks me about cable is that, to get the maybe 5 or 10 stations you actually watch, you have to take a couple hundred religious, paid programming, spanish, paid programming, obscure sports, paid programming, infomercials – – did I mention paid programming? And not only are they cutting the programming short to fit in more commercials, they are even cutting the commercials short to squeeze a few more in! What am I paying for again? Oh yeah, hundreds of channels of “entertainment”. They are killing their own business model and they don’t even see it.

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