Monday, June 29, 2009

Cable TV Attempts To Fend Off Internet Video

I've written several posts, most recently, here, regarding the efforts of cable television providers to cope with an initially small, but growing segment of viewers who are turning to the internet for all of their video programming.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal carried two separate articles on the response of cable systems to this phenomenon. Basically, they cable system providers are offering their customers access to exclusive video content, and internet access to existing cable video content, in exchange for not disconnecting their cable feeds, and merely keeping their high-speed internet access.

I don't think this will work. It seems to me that people tend to want known content for the lowest price, consistent with their viewing habits or access capabilities. Quite a bit of existing cable content is now available on Hulu, or on an inexpensive, per-episode basis on iTunes.

Like many technologies, there's a growing rift between younger consumer segments and older ones. For example, I prefer to watch most television programming on a large screen, but my children have learned to be fairly ambivalent between a television screen or their laptops.

Promising as-yet-unspecified video content in exchange for very pricey access to content you can access either via Netflix, Amazon, iTunes or Hulu doesn't seem like such a great deal anymore. Further, consumers are learning to accept and use a variety of means by which to access video content.

Finally, as I noted in this post, in February, TiVo is now fully capable of adding a menu of internet URLs to its menu, thus allowing a subscriber to access any internet site for video content. It's not clear to me why TiVo is waiting to do this. Perhaps it's a matter of quid pro quo with content providers continuing to make it easy to use TiVo instead of their proprietary DVRs.

In any case, there are a multitude of paths to video content that don't lead through a paid cable television subscription.

Adding a few exclusive video programs is, in my opinion, unlikely to be a long-term solution for the cable providers. Eventually, they're going to face what music and movie producers have already undergone- technological advances which render their proprietary hold over video content moot and of much less value than it could command in the past.

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