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The Uncoupling of American Content Society

If 2014 and CES 2015 has taught us anything, it is this: for the first time in American television consumer history, the consumer is gaining the upper hand in how, when and why they watch content. With announcements of single streaming services made by HBO, CBS and a variety of other cable stations in 2014 matched with Netflix, Amazon, Chromecast and the announcement of Sling TV at CES, 2015 might finally be the year when consumers ditch cable for selected streaming content.

In this spirit, here are four reasons why 2015 might be your year to leave your cable provider for streaming content services.

Smart TV

1. Content Variety with Control

The major problem with the existing model of cable providers is the lack of choice consumers receive from their provider. While you might watch ESPN, the History Channel, AMC, HBO and Comedy Central everyday, you might never watch the Outdoor Network, Esquire Network or E!, etc. The basic problem here is although you buy into a wide range of channels, the average consumer routinely watches a small portion of that wide range. This means the average consumer pays more for the stations they don't view than the ones they love watching.

More to the point, certain stations like ESPN drive up monthly cable bills due to extended contractual agreements with service providers. Not only does your bill rise on a annual to semi-annual basis because your service provider wants to make more money, it rises in monthly expenditure because the stations your provider carries are getting more and more expensive to operate/run.

As mentioned, the problem is choice.

This being said, 2015 might be the year you finally uncouple from your provider because stand alone content services are on the rise. With stand alone streaming content services like Netflix, Amazon, Chromecast, HBO, Hulu, Sling TV and a variety of other options, the consumer has more power than ever to pick and choose the content they want to view without having to pay for the content they never use. In 2015, content variety is now within your control.

2. Consumers Have Viewing Control

Kevin Spacey is a smart man. Below is a video and a bit of transcript from a speech he gave at the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival in 2013:

"By comparison, last year, 113 pilots were made, 35 of those were chosen to go to air, 13 of those were renewed but most of those are gone now. This year, 146 pilots were shot. 56 have gone to series, but we don't know the outcome of those yet...but the cost of those pilots were somewhere between $300 and $400 million per year...that makes our House of Cards deal for two seasons look really cost effective...Clearly the success of the House of Cards model - releasing the entire series at once - proves one thing: the audience wants the control. They want the freedom."
"If they want to binge on House of Cards and other shows, as they have been doing, than we should let them binge...And through this new form of distribution we have demonstrated the lesson that the music industry didn't learn: give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price and they will more likely pay for it rather than steal it. So I predict that in the next decade or two, any differentiation between these platforms will fall away."
"Is thirteen hours watched as one cinematic whole really any different than a film? Do we define film as being two hours or less? Surely it goes deeper than that. If you are watching a film on your television is it no longer a film because your not watching it in a theater? If you watch a tv show on your iPad is it no longer a tv show? The device and length are irrelevant. The labels are useless...for kids growing up now, there is no difference. Watching Avatar on an iPad or watching Youtube on a tv or watching Game of Thrones on their computer, it's all content. It's just story. And the audience has spoken, they want stories, they're dying for them."
"They're rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus, to the hairdresser...force it on their friends, tweet, blog, facebook, make fan pages, silly gifs, and god knows what else about it. They will engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. And all we have to do is give it to them."

Kevin Spacey and Netflix get it. To both, it doesn't matter where the audience watches, how the audience watches, on what device the audience watches or why the audience watches. The aspect that matters is giving the audience the choice to consume content anyway they want. The audience wants the control. The audience wants the freedom. Lucky for us, with more content streaming services coming online, that freedom in 2015 is here, ready to use and enjoy.

3. It's Not About Cost

One of the largest complaints regarding bundled cable providers is price. A typical cable contract can run the average consumer between $50 - $300 per month. Depending on the package you choose and the services bundled into it - phone and Internet - your month data bill can set you back a few thousand dollars per year. Add to this the legendary substandard customer service provided by some of the larger content providers and you can see why consumers are ready to finally cut the cord.

This said, price shouldn't be a dominate factor in how you cut the cord because even if you eliminate your cable provider in favor of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Go App, Chromecast and Sling TV, you will still be paying between $25 and $150 per month for content. The difference though is instead of paying for content you don't want, you are paying for content you love.

For some, monthly spend won't change much. For others, it will. Either way, price shouldn't be your determining factor.

4. Mobile Content Platforms Matter

Mobile Content Streaming Platforms

With the rise of single streaming content services, the content you love is now more mobile than ever. Our world is steadily growing to morph the way we interact with content we love. The vehicle for that interaction is no longer a stationary television, a cinema screen or a car radio. The vehicle is now in your pocket, on your lap or in your hands. As our content interactions continue to shift from stationary to mobile, the content we digest also must change to thrive in those mobile platforms.

The basic truth is traditional content providers fear the flattening of content distribution because it makes it harder for them to control how that content is viewed, interacted with and shared. Increasing use of mobile content distribution means consumers have more control over that content and most importantly, when and how that content is consumed. Mobile content threatens traditional cable providers because it breaks down their method of how content is analyzed.

Mobile content also threatens traditional content providers because the methods of content production within Netflix and HBO are drastically different than content production within ABC, CBS or Sony Pictures. The latter model hands control over to the suits while the former hands control over to the creative types. Additionally, the Netflix model of content deployment is all at once. This model tears down the traditional "pilot" method of content production.

Mobile content distribution shifts control of content from the studio to the audience. This scares the willies out of traditional content providers and, in the long run, empowers viewers to vote with their viewing habits.

The end all be all is it feels like 2015 might finally be the year traditional cable companies get the boot. For a variety of reasons, traditional content production businesses are losing control to streaming content services. This is a good thing. For consumers looking for more control, better story, more control over viewing habits/platforms and more control over monthly spend, 2015 might just be your year.

Remember, if you like this content and want to chat about it, you can reach me at the following social spaces:

  1. Twitter: @bleibowi
  2. Linkedin: Brad Yale
  3. Google +: Brad Yale

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