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One Less Cable Customer & The Future of TV

Posted on August 13, 2006

Old TVMy girlfriend and I have been thinking about getting rid of cable for a long time. In fact, she never wanted to get it in the first place. Why would we want to get rid of cable you ask? Well, I get sucked into the TV and can’t pull myself away sometimes (usually I am watching the History Channel though so at least it’s educational). I have probably wasted countless hours of my life watching TV that I was only watching because “it was on.” Not only can the TV be a time waster, it also costs a good amount of money that we could use for other things like going to live performances, to the movies or to dinner.

My thoughts on going cableless came up the other day when I headed out to lunch with the rest of my colleagues on the publisher services team at FeedBurner. While talking about it the guys kept bringing up reasons why I should keep cable (they were very convincing actually). I rebutted stating that I can get most TV shows I want on the web or rent them from netflix on DVD. I also mentioned that I only watched a handful of cable channels regularly and that the other 70 were a waste of money. Steve then made a comment that got me to start thinking about the future of TV. Steve said something to the effect of “Hey, he’s the future.” The future, eh? I think he has a point.

Television is definitely heading online. Major League Baseball is already allowing fans subscribe to a service that allows them to watch all the games they want online and PBS allows viewers to view PBS shows right from PBS.org. This is exciting because it means that the technology is out there and it works. Also, all TV channels have web sites already so they are only one small step away from offering their shows through their sites. This could be a huge move for the channels themselves as they will be able to disintermediate the cable providers and work directly with the consumer. The consumer will also love this shift for two reasons:

  1. It is an on demand platform minus the TiVo.
  2. It will allow the consumer to pay for only what they use/want rather than paying for channels they never watch.

The big question for the channels will be how to monetize this new channel. Here are some easy answers to that question:

  1. Use ads to underwrite the content.
  2. Use a pay-per-view model for shows or seasons (seasons could be delivered by feed like a video podcast).
  3. Use a hybrid of ads and pay-per-view.
  4. Let the customer choose to either view ads or pay for the content.

Consumers would be fine with any of those formats as they are the same formats cable TV uses now and content producers will enjoy working direct with consumers using very simple, time tested business models.

Having said all that I am really hoping things move in that direction because I am officially no longer a cable customer as of today! Check out the pictures of my TV with its new antenna here and here. If anyone from the History Channel reads this please e-mail me and we can work toward getting you going with episodes online as I know I will be missing Lost Worlds, Digging for the Truth and The Revolution a lot. Just think, you could lead the revolution that I am sure will come sooner rather than later for all cable channels.

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16 Comments so far
  1. Fraser August 13, 2006 10:10 pm

    Right on!

    When I moved I didn’t bother hooking up cable and I’ve loved the decision for a number of months now. You’re also right about the future of television, and it’s exciting to be able to watch it play out.

    To help bridge the gap there are TV shows to d/l and the great ones should be watched once released on dvd anyway.

    Hope you’re withdrawl isn’t too bad :)

  2. Ken Wilbur August 14, 2006 2:47 am

    Interesting thoughts. But to make it happen, the TV networks have to get their signals into your home. There are currently three options: cable wires, phone wires, or wireless internet service. The cable network is built for broadcasting downstream signals, it doesn’t have enough pipe width to send individual signals to each individual node. DSL offers a possibility, but the phone companies could charge by the bit, effectively taxing your program consumption. Without serious wireless competition DSL will be the monopoly provider. Is there a wireless solution on the horizon? I haven’t seen one yet..

    I have written a couple of papers on closely related topics. I would love to hear your thoughts. They are available at
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=586551

  3. Eric August 14, 2006 4:42 pm

    Fraser - good to know there is some support out there for the no cable crowd! Withdrawal is manageable so far. Will keep you posted. :-)

    Ken - thank you for your insight. Much appreciated. I am looking forward to reading your papers and sending along my thoughts.

  4. totally September 13, 2006 11:25 pm

    Totally agree! With services like IPTV, YouTube and FreeTube (http://www.freetube.co.nr) - you can now watch tv online and its readily available and easy to use. The future has already arrived, and its time to say goodbye to the conventional cable tv box!

  5. […] Jeff Pulver of Pulver Media and Vonage gave a great talk at PodCamp regarding the future of video. In specific, he spoke about video as an application and the power of that concept. While the things he said initially sounded a little out there I immediately began to realize that not only could they happen they could be made and released in the relatively near future. As someone who recently stopped their cable TV service and is looking to the internet to move to TV this is very exciting for all of the reasons I discussed in my post about leaving cable (buy only the channels/shows I want, etc.). However, I think internet based TV is potentially even more interesting to the advertising community. […]

  6. Somewhat Frank October 10, 2006 9:06 pm

    Google Pays $1.65B For YouTube Audience…

    Google, finally confirmed the purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock options after TechCrunch first surfaced the rumor as, 40% likely to be at least partially true. It was a covered by just about everyone and their brother so…

  7. […] As long time readers know, I have been without cable TV for about five months now. Wow, I can’t even believe it has been that long. I thought it had been a couple months at most but, thanks to my blog archive, I know it was mid-August when I dropped cable TV. Apparently I haven’t missed having cable too much which is not surprising considering how busy I am and the fact that we did install the old bunny ears to get the standard local channels but I think a lot of what has made the past five months without cable so great is the proliferation of video on the net. […]

  8. […] to watch TV. He’s not the only one. John Zeratzsky bid adieu to Comcast last September and Eric Olson (who, I just found, works for FeedBurner) got rid of cable last […]

  9. […] by a weird logo I think and no name), for a while now. I was psyched to start using it mainly since I no longer have cable TV (yes, it’s by choice). I have enjoyed my Joost experience so far and as they get more content […]

  10. Bob June 28, 2007 9:42 pm

    http://videos.notontelevision.com/ has a lot of cool tv links including House episodes

  11. […] me this year will be much different than last year since I no longer have cable. That means, unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch the live Tour coverage on Versus and […]

  12. Comcast September 26, 2007 3:11 pm

    Great article!

  13. Satellite TV on Your PC November 4, 2007 11:33 pm

    I usually go out to the movies anyways or if I absolutely NEED to watch TV I watch it online, I can’t stand seeing all the ads on TeleVision. Theres about 4 mins of ads every 12 mins of content, thats horrible!

  14. John Blunt January 22, 2008 3:25 pm

    I think the only entertainment worth watching (besides the History Channel) would be sporting events. Would you rather watch the super bowl in HD or listen to it on the radio?!?!?

  15. Eric Olson January 22, 2008 9:50 pm

    I agree on the sentiment about sports. I really don’t see why live sports content can’t flow through the web though. Baseball (among other sports) is already doing it and the quality, while not quite HD, gets better every year.

  16. Morgan Webb June 18, 2008 12:25 pm

    Hi…Thanks for the nice read, keep up the interesting posts about cable tv..what a nice Wednesday .