Why Cable's Swan Song Isn't this Year's Sound of Summer


The news constantly reminds us that we have entered an on-demand epoch of video consumption. With high speed internet access, unlimited data plans, over-the-top devices, and smart TVs now a ubiquitous part of our personal household ‘technology stacks’, the press frequently reminds us that Xfinity and Time Warner are for whom the bell tolls.

But before the undertaker arrives to solemnly march your cable box away, we would suggest taking a moment to reflect on what you really want from your evening viewing experience.

Because while there is no refuting the extraordinary onslaught of binge-able content that on-demand content creators like Netflix and Amazon have conferred upon us, in their desire to put the cable guy out of work, they’ve created a preponderance of confusion, as the New York Times recently reported.

When someone hears about a new show like The Tick at the proverbial water cooler, or at the actual in-office kombucha tap or cold-press keg, they now need to figure out what service it is available on, and if they don’t already pay for that service, they then need to decide whether they want to make this new investment.

This is of course on top of the investment required to have access to the high-speed internet data necessary to watch the show to begin with.

The dream of cutting the cord seems to be related to the fiscally responsible nature of the Millennial generation and years of customer service mistreatment by the likes of Comcast and Charter. But, at least today, cutting the cord does not yet lead to a universe of unlimited content for a fraction of the $150 cable tab many of us found ourselves paying when our 6 month, triple pay, introductory offers expired.

Recently, we did a back-of-the-napkin comparison of the least expensive possible cable package we could find versus the least expensive possible cord-cutting comparable.

Pricing estimates sourced from xfinity.com, sling.com, and netflix.com

Pricing estimates sourced from xfinity.com, sling.com, and netflix.com

We found that you’d save $4, have at least 110 fewer channels to select programs from, and likely be missing out on desirable local channels like your local CBS affiliate. That’s if you only purchase one streaming service. The reality is, according to a recent study, that almost half of 18-29 year olds are subscribing to more than three different streaming services and more than half agree that there are just too many .

And, to give some credit to the cable companies, they’re trying.

They’ve been merged and reformed and are increasingly operating like modern tech companies with options to stream your subscription on any device at no additional charge, free WiFi across the country, and strong slates of on-demand programming including DVR options that will often serve up desirable content far more quickly than a streaming service does. Xfinity has integrated Netflix into its X1 operating system and other streaming services are on-deck.

If you take a step back and examine what’s going on, one must recognize that it’s the cable companies who have the most extensive high-speed Internet infrastructure, the access to the most content, and the ability to seamlessly aggregate it all into one easy to find, easy to use, and easy to access interface.

Before we sign off the cable guy with a cord-cutting swan song, we’d suggest taking another look at how cable companies are reforming themselves to provide a convenient way to harness the increasingly disparate sources for content arising across the entertainment ecosystem.

By the way, you can watch The Tick only with an Amazon Prime subscription for $99 a year.