It probably comes as no news to you that the availability and consumption of broadband video has risen dramatically this year. I enjoy using Net-viewing to timeshift or catch up on old episodes of particular shows, as well as watching video that’s exclusive to the Web (I love ill Doctrine, a hip-hop video blog hosted by Jay Smooth).
But there’s been a particular notion that risen as well that fascinates me: the proposition that online video can completely replace regular television. Twice, we’ve addressed the notion that online “a la carte” consumption of content can be a cost-savings measure (here & here).
In recent months, the “cord-cutting” meme has shifted a little bit. Instead of simply focusing on the benefits of online video’s a la carte nature, there have been a series of stories about people canceling cable or other subscriptions in favor of getting all their video from other sources. There’s even a website dedicated to the idea of No More TV.
For example, here’s an L.A. Times piece on Kevin Rose – co-founder of such start-ups as Revision3, Pownce & Digg – explaining why he canceled his Comcast cable and TiVo subscriptions in favor of getting video from the Internet and his Netflix-Roku box. Note that he says he only watches “a handful of shows and about 10 to 12 hours of programming a week.” As we’ve noted before, Nielsen says the average is 127 hours, 15 minutes per month, or just shy of 32 weekly hours.
Mutichannel News has also examined this idea of dumping cable for the Internet. Note that the first customer interviewed says, “I don’t watch a lot of TV myself.” Here’s an important piece of this movement to cutting cable:
Online fare is skewed toward broadcast content. Full episodes of about 90% of broadcast networks’ primetime shows are available on the Internet, compared with about 20% of cable shows, according to Forrester Research.
So, while some cable programming is available online, much is not. Multichannel talks to another customers who says “the bigger adjustment for him was the lack of cable news programming.” TV Week‘s Daisy Whitney is in the midst of an experiment to see if she can get all her television shows online; this week, she wrote about the difficulty of finding kid-friendly content. Will Richmond discusses the lack of cable programming in more detail.
Now, I know that there are readers who will come to the conclusion that I make these remarks for anti-competitive reasons. Purportedly, cable operators are scared of the competition from online video, which also supposedly explains (NOT) many of our network management policies. But some cable operators are also in the online content business, such as Comcast’s Fancast service. And many of these articles and blog posts on getting video from online sources don’t mention that you still have to have a broadband connection to do so – a service also offered by cable.
I think the growth in video is a terrific thing, but I’m a little skeptical about how fast the “cord-cutter” trend is growing. If this was a real movement, wouldn’t we see multichannel subs going down as broadband video consumption went up? Instead, the subscription numbers have stayed pretty stable.
This week, Contentinople‘s Eve Bergazyn also noted another trend:
According to The Nielsen Company ’s TV/Internet Convergence Panel, the heaviest users aren’t medium loyal: “the top fifth of Internet users spend more than 250 minutes per day watching television, compared to 220 minutes of television viewing by people who do not use the Internet at all,” the company announced in a press release. The opposite is true too, with lower Internet-usage correlating with less time spent in front of the television.
So, perhaps the roles of television and the Internet are more complementary than it might seem at first glance.