The End (of Cable TV) is Nigh!

I got an email yesterday from Microsoft about my Xbox Live subscription. They are raising their prices for Gold membership:

“Over the past seven years, Xbox LIVE has evolved from an online gaming platform to an all-in-one gaming and entertainment service. As an Xbox LIVE Gold member, you can not only play blockbuster games, such as Halo: Reach with your friends online, you can also stream movies from Netflix and music from right to your TV. You can even connect with friends near and far on Facebook® and Twitter™. Plus, you also enjoy exclusive discounts and early access to game demos.

And we aren’t even close to being done. This holiday, Xbox LIVE is adding new Gold features, including ESPN and Video Kinect, with Hulu Plus coming on Xbox LIVE in 2011.

• With ESPN on Xbox LIVE, you can stream and watch over 3,500 live and on-demand sporting events plus highlights.

• Video Kinect allows you to chat with family and friends on the big screen, right from the comfort of your living room—no headset or controller required.

• With Hulu Plus on Xbox LIVE you will be able to enjoy a customized Hulu Plus experience that will include Kinect navigation and Xbox LIVE Parties”

That’s right, soon I will not only play games and stream Netflix on the Xbox, but watch ESPN and Hulu Plus TV programming.

Tomorrow Apple will host an event where it is rumored they will reveal a new iOS based iTV box, replacing the ill fated (but loved by me) Apple TV. It’s not certain they will announce this, but it would make sense with the rest of Apple’s strategy. An app-based iTV box designed to stream video, pictures, audio, and play simple games would fit right into the iOS line. When you add in another rumor that Apple will allow “cloud-based” content streaming to iOS devices, it could be very easy to consume all kinds of media on your TV.

That’s what has been missing from the conversion from cable to web viewing, simplicity. The average person doesn’t want to figure out how to use a multimedia PC and get the video from websites to stream on their TV. They just want to plug in a box and watch. They need an Xbox or iTV, or Playstation, or boxee box, or blu ray player with streaming capabilities or they won’t switch. Media PCs have been around for years, and never been widely adopted by the masses, not because of their cost, but because of the lack of simplicity.

If people can buy a simple solution to stream the same video content as offered by cable/satellite from the web, they will. It’s niche programming taken to the logical conclusion: pay a low fee, and watch what you want when you want.

All that remains is for local channels to figure out how to deliver through the web, and cable can devote all of it’s bandwidth to on demand and internet traffic. Cable companies wont go out of business, but they won’t offer 300 channels anymore either. Currently, I subscribe the the base cable package of 20 local channels and an internet package. We spend less than 3 hours per week watching cable. We spend many more hours streaming content via the internet connection.

It won’t happen fast, but within a couple years or so cable will find less people paying for the massive channel packages, and more adopting fiber and faster connections to the web. They will have to change their model to survive.

For those of us that deliver content via cable and network channels, we have some strategic thinking to do, and we had better get on it.


5 thoughts on “The End (of Cable TV) is Nigh!

  1. But imagine if you could watch any show anytime you wanted. Like TIVO, but without having to remember to record it. Just call it up and watch. That is where we are headed.

  2. My wife and I dropped our premium channels and just have basic cable and internet service via Comcast. We’re saving $100 a month and not missing a thing. The kids can watch their favorite shows on PBS and Netflix and I can get ESPN on my Xbox 360.

    We still have cable because we don’t want the hassle of making a OTA antenna work. Also for $2 more we have basic cable because it is bundled with our high speed internet. I can live with $24 a year instead of dealing with installing the antenna.

    We can also leverage video podcasts for the niche programming we would get with our premium channels. Instead of Food Network we stream podcasts like Vendr.TV, Serious Eats and CHOW. With very little work you can create a personal network of shows to watch at almost no cost.

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