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by Jay A. Fernandez
August 3, 2012 3:06 PM
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A La Carte vs. The Bundle: Subscribers to Pay TV's Big Four Forage for Greener Pastures

If there's one driving force behind the advance of technology in 21st-century entertainment consumption, it's that viewers want what they want, when and where they want it, with the freedom to change their minds about it at any moment -- and nothing else.

According to a Paid Content piece from Daniel Frankel Friday, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable -- the big four of pay TV -- all lost subscribers in the second quarter for the first time, to the collective tune of 407,000 users. Frankel ties the trend to a shift from multi-channel packaging to the a-la-carte Web-delivered content consumers are increasingly choosing (and demanding). While this development does not mean that the quartet is about to collapse, it does indicate that users are taking advantage of cherry-picking services that allow them to avoid all the junk they never wanted, and never wanted to pay for. A tipping point can't be too far off.

Read the money grafs:

The migration of television from its current bundled paradigm to its a la carte, internet-delivered future may be further away than some cord cutters would like. But based on second-quarter earnings data released by the top four pay TV services, the multi-channel video business as we know it no longer seems to be in growth mode....

Many of these lost subscribers continue to migrate to telco-based services, with AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS adding 202,000 and 120,000 video subscribers, respectively, during Q2.

Coupled with satellite additions, the emergence of these two telco video services have more than offset the declines of the cable business and kept the overall pay TV business in growth mode the last few years. But at least for now, satellite has stopped growing.

Gripes about the bloated, all-in cable dial, stuffed with hundreds of channels only convicts and shut-ins watch, have always accompanied viewers' genuine enjoyment of the content they actually want. And now that there is a healthy array of opportunities for consumers to spend money in a targeted way, they are desperate to do so.

But how do Indiewire readers like their content? Have any ditched the package approach recently? Why?

Read the full Paid Content story.

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