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And So It Begins

It’s Not Just You: Many People Are Cutting Their Cable Loose In Favor of Streaming (Legal and Otherwise)

If you have found yourself making the decision to dump your cable company and just see what’s available online, you are part of a growing TV audience that is moving further and further away from conventional cable. About 1.5 million households canceled their cable subscriptions in 2011, which is a small but significant drop in the cable-viewing audience. Instead, these defectors are moving on to online streaming on sites like Hulu (for now, at least), Netflix, iTunes, and other — ahem — less legal venues. Some say it’s a direct result of the recession, and cable companies might want to do a little soul-searching to retain — and regain — their audiences.

These numbers come from the famous Nielson Company, which conducts market research and is best known for the coveted “Nielson rating,” which tells us which shows it thinks people are watching the most. And it happened to notice that its way of measuring what people are watching on TV might not be as revealing as online traffic might be these days.

Cable lost more than 2.9 million subscribers as viewers switched to telephone or satellite providers. U.S. homes subscribing to cable, satellite or telephone providers for their TV service declined 1.5% or about 1.5 million last year, according to figures Nielsen released this week. Subscribers adding telco (about 1.9 million) or satellite service (roughly 280K) weren’t enough to make up the difference.

Blame it on the economy and the ever-rising prices of cable packages, which cable companies seem to refuse to want to change. Because a lot of the shows that appear on cable can be found online, often with even less commercial interruptions, for free. And that’s evident in this finding:

[H]ouseholds with broadband and only free, over-the-air broadcast TV increased by 631K over the last year, climbing 14% to 5.1 million.

Indeed, when faced with having to make budget cutbacks, cutting cable makes a lot of sense when there are several less pricey places to watch television. Nielson also found that people are watching TV about 46 minutes less than they did in the previous year — because they don’t watch original airings. DVR has contributed to lower viewership, too. But Think Progress points out that maybe some people find that a la carte TV viewing, or paying for just the shows that you actually watch, rather than spending all that money on cable channels in which there is no interest, might make for a thriftier TV experience:

Even if you buy a single season of a show on iTunes and parcel it out, it’s less money than a month’s subscription, and may feel like you’re spending your money in a more targeted way than you were if you splashing out for a whole cable package.

But consider not just the internet, but gaming consoles that basically all feature access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, or its own service, like Xbox Live, and even Verizon Fios.

Meanwhile, Hulu seems to be doing one of the most counterproductive things ever seen by announcing it will be moving towards an “authentication requirement” with cable subscribers, meaning that in order to view new shows on Hulu, you’ll have to have a cable account. Non-subscribers will have to wait 30 days to view new shows, at which point they will be no longer new, and probably available somewhere else soon after it airs.

It makes you wonder why anyone has cable anymore (and also WTF, Hulu?). Because some of those creatures of traditional (but expensive) convenience are going to evolve.

(via Deadline, Think Progress)

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  • Anonymous

    More than anything else, it’s the “channel package” system that enrages me more than anything else.  I don’t watch sports, never will, but damn if cable companies make it impossible to get the movie channels without tacking the 18 ESPN channels on. 

    And we can beg for a la carte channel sales, but you know in your heart they’ll price the individual channels so the ones you want will cost nearly as much as the package, if not more.

    I think it’s safe to say that a great many cable channels would vanish from the Earth if people got to choose whether they wanted them or not.

  • JoAnna Luffman

    Yeah, mom had a dish ( one of the large ones, not a mini) and she finally gave it up. If she wanted one cable news channel, she had to have all of them – a la carte for one was the same price as the package. Soon after her dish was no longer supported (which stinks – she had much less interruption of service with hers than I do with my mini) so it didn’t matter anyway.

  • Alex Cranz

    I was under the impression Hulu was only considering the move to authentication and hadn’t actually decided yet. And most of the cable programs (non-broadcast) are already on a delay there as is. In Plain Sight just finished on USA and is only on the second episode of the season on Hulu. 

  • elizabeth marley e.

    I’m positive the reason MORE people haven’t canceled cable is lack of access. I hear a lot of friends and their parents saying they’d love to cancel cable but they don’t have the proper tech setup to stream Netflix or Hulu anywhere other than their computer screens.

  • Emily Gail Simon

    We tried cancelling cable but ended up with basic because it was an additional $3 with our internet package. We occasionally put it on for background noise (I like watching people cook food) but for the most part we rely on Netflix, internet streaming, and our HTPC.

    If cable will survive it will need a major revamp.

  • Jen Roberts

    My husband and I got rid of our cable TV service about a year ago. We really don’t use the TV as anything except a monitor for Netflix, DVD’s/Blu-Rays, and video games. We weren’t using the cable service much anyway. Saves us quite a bit, and we’re still getting to see everything we want to see.

    I’d been a proponent of a la carte channel pricing for cable since I was a kid, but I never held my breath on it. Even my mom is thinking about dumping her cable because it’s just not worth it for the ~4 shows she considers worth her time.

  • Deborah Block-Schwenk

     We got a Roku and it’s great.(I am not affiliated with them, just a happy customer). 
    If you have a wireless network at home it is _very_ simple to hook up, and streams Netflix, Amazon video and  Hulu Plus (I don’t know if it works with regular free Hulu), as well as other content. 

  • Anonymous

    Make money online today – without any delay. My friend named Cris just join online money campaign and this is well paid program,  250$ in a day or more then. Have you tour this ⇛►

  • barbara

    We’ve actually switched to Hulu/Netflix/other types of streaming just for the convenience – I can watch my shows whenever I have time (instead of having to make sure I’m home at 8pm on a Friday night).  We still have cable for sports, but that’s about the only thing we ever use it for.

  • Lettice Peyton

    That’s because the sports channels are so freaking expensive for them that if they didn’t spread the cost among all their customers they would be prohibitively expensive. So they spread the cost out and us non sports watching people get shafted.

  • Lettice Peyton

    Most blueray players will stream it now. I don’t have anywhere near a high end one and I can stream through it.

  • David Ouillette

    The main problem with a la carte is that it will increase all of our bills. I know it seems counter intuitive, but without the bundling to spread the cost, the individual content producers would bleed us dry. 

  • Captain ZADL

    Appointment based TV is for sports. Other than that, it’s a 20th Century business model, and who the hell wants to live in that past? 

  • Carter Mason

    This is why JTS.TV is working to become the first network outside of traditional broadcast methods. It’s a premium model but without a cable package attached to it.

  • Dazee

    It’s because that’s how the agreements work. The channels are sold to the TV Company in bulk/group packaging, and what package they’re going to be on. If the TV Company wants ESPN they HAVE to take ESPN 2 and if they want to get at the price of .xx per subscriber it needs to be on their ‘so-n-so’ package. Also keep in mind how many stations one company owns. MTV isn’t just MTV, it’s also VH1, and Spike, and Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon, and etc. It’s not so much how the Cable company is packaging them, it’s how the channels are being sold to the companies. And you’re right about pricing. Does one really think ala carte a channel would only be .75? You’d be looking closer to at least 10.00-15.00 a piece. If you have 10 or more channels you like..

    And you’re also right about channels going away if ala carte became available. Niche channels and shows more then likely wouldn’t get the funding they needed because they don’t have the following. It all comes down to money. It costs money to make these programs, it costs money to advertise them, costs money to get them to you. And what everyone thinks is fair is hardly the same.

  • Catie Storm

    The issue here is not with the cable companies themselves but with the content providers. There is no regulation at all on what they charge for their services, and they jack the costs higher every year while requiring each channel to be part of a bundled package in order to even allow the companies to license their networks. They’re setting their eyes on the internet content now so expect something similar to start cropping up like with the potential Hulu authentication model. 

  • Anonymous

     It can be especially hard for people who live in rural areas because they may not have access to fast internet.

  • Kristin M.

    We haven’t had broadcast/cable/satellite for ten years. Other than online streaming options for mainstream media, we are enjoying all of the other types of media now available; YouTube channels (Nerdist, Geek and Sundry), podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and websites hosting original content. I am burdened with such an abundance of media, I can’t possibly digest it all. I don’t know what’s going to happen to cable and I’m not really sure I care. I won’t miss the content. 

  • Anonymous

    This company actually has an amazing and complete guide on “how to eliminate cable TV without missing anything”

  • Anonymous

    We were spending $90/month on cable because we wanted to get TCM and that meant getting a whole other tier of channels we never watched. So, we got rid of cable, upgraded our internet to a higher speed and bandwidth cap and now we spend our money on Amazon, iTunes and DVDs. It’s a fair bit cheaper, and we get to watch what we want.

    We have friends who still have cable for ESPN, but now the big sports fan has an iPad and an subscription. I’m wondering if he’ll get an AppleTV to drive his TV set from his iPad and just get rid of cable some day. (ESPN won’t mind. They’re still getting paid.)

  • Anonymous

    I had a Comcast Xfinity subscription here in CA for $100. They upped it to $120 + tax this year- that was for net, phone, and cable. I was enraged (mostly bc I could get the same package back in Missouri for $60.00). I cancelled, kept the internet on Comcast, added Amazon Prime and Netflix, and subscribed on Hulu (NOT Hulu Plus- it’s a waste of money). Basically, saving myself about $60 per month which includes the netflix and prime subs). I haven’t looked back once. Anything on TV I wait a day to see. And if it’s HBO… well… there are ways. And after building my own little Home Theater PC for my living room, it’s almost like I just created my own cable subscription with JUST stuff I like. Ahh, freedom. <3
    I'd gladly pay for channels / shows a la carte, but it's not available yet… waiting…

  • heather

    The media is pure propaganda and is on the side of ending America as we know it.

  • Anonymous

    LOL, my wife and I watch a few channels each and yet our cable bill is $95/mo. How could we possibly pay more for what we watch? We’re forced to buy hundreds of channels to get the few we want. That’s a flat out rip-off.