Can Cable and Satellite Companies Make Peace with Cord Cutting?
If companies accept the inevitable, perhaps they can prepare and shift their strategies to survive.
For the last several years, trends have had customers of cable TV dropping that service, in exchange for paying only for Internet and using streaming services and other alternative means to enjoy entertainment. And with the coronavirus pandemic, those trends have accelerated, with more people staying home, and choosing to no longer depend on traditional pay TV.
The cable and satellite companies lost 1.8 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2020. And a recent eMarketer survey put the total cord-cutting number for 2020 at over six million.
Lately, there have been indications that the pay TV companies are beginning to make their peace with this as a new normal.
In September, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts addressed this at a Goldman Sachs investor conference.
“One of the big pivots of Comcast the last decade is to really follow our customers’ needs and try to anticipate them and be a company that meets them. So in video with some customers who want it all,” Roberts said. “And other customers want to just be streaming. That may be because of financial reasons, habits, age, you name it . . . so video is very much part of our strategy and the DNA of the company.”
A report by CNBC Monday found that “a quiet consensus” has begun to emerge in companies in this space and those adjacent to it, about the decline of cable.
The companies surveyed by CNBC expect the number of pay TV subscribers to drop by another twenty-five million in the next five years, equaling the amount of subscribers it’s already lost over the last eight years. At that point, the industry is seen stabilizing at about fifty million subscribers.
This would mean, per CNBC, a decline in revenue of $25 billion, across the companies in the space, and accompanying advertising losses for the media companies with which they do business. This is why those media companies have begun to emphasize streaming, with some of them, including Disney, recently announcing major corporate reorganizations.
The CNBC report also predicted that within a few years, we’re likely to see “the systematic consolidation and elimination of cable networks,” with both Comcast and ViacomCBS, who each own multiple networks, looking down that path, although existing licensing deals are a reason that the death of cable networks may be a few years off.
Meanwhile, a new analyst report indicates that there’s more to come in terms of subscriber losses. A report by Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson, as cited by Next TV.
“At this rate of decline (somewhere between 7.7% and 8.3% per year), the traditional pay TV business would disappear entirely in another 12 years,” Moffett wrote in the note. “The pay TV ecosystem is well and truly unraveling.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.