in media, television

Cable’s grip weakens as the web rises

According to a new article in Silicon Valley Insider, cable is starting to feel the pinch from online video, and no wonder. With old technology, no way to get a la carte programming, and a disdain for the customer that borders on the pathological, I’m not surprised cable is hurting.

Anecdotally I’ve talked to many friends who have dropped cable for online, some of them going so far as to get rid of their televisions. I keep my TV around as a video game monitor, but it doesn’t do much past that. And with the advent of iPhone apps like Al Jazeera English, it won’t be long before I pick and choose the channels I want (in my case, mostly news) and carry them around in my pocket.

Of course, Canada is even more of a monopoly than the United States, and to date we haven’t had anything as disruptive as Hulu arrive on the scene (though it’s likely on the way.) And our cable and TV execs are if anything in more denial than their US counterparts; when I was at the Banff TV Festival a few months ago one exec said with a straight face that “We’ll be just fine, we have HD!” Yes, never mind that all it takes is a clever bit of math and the web will soon have as good or better quality video than HDTV, you just wallow in your comfortable lies, TV exec.

Long term, I think the television industry as it stands is doomed. Eventually everything will come to our televisions, computers and other devices through the internet, and those who can adapt to that new reality will survive. Those that can’t…won’t.

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  1. Ah, Warren, this is so true, but… as most revolutions have revealed, the “collateral damage” that occurs to good people when the old institutions crumble can be pretty horrific. It will take some pretty visionary & brave leaders of the dying institutions to not leave a smoking, stinking mess behind when their cash-cows crumble. And last I looked, there were very few of THOSE types in charge of any profit-making quasi-monopolies…

  2. Agreed. My fervent hope is that tv shifts to the model you see with web development, which is more collaborative and would likely treat the video as part of a whole. Whether that’ll happen or not, I have no idea, but those working at NextMedia working on web series (with a web site surrounding, expanding and enhancing the video) seemed to have their heads screwed on much straighter, and have a much more optimistic outlook for the future, than the TV execs.