It’s been recently announced that HBO will be adding a standalone streaming service, a la Netflix. The service will cost $15 dollars and is being launched next Month. HBO currently services HBO GO, which is a paid application that is only available to people who subscribe to HBO. This new service will allow “cord cutters” to subscribe to the fantastic programming of the network, without having to have a cable subscription to do so. While this was pretty big news, I don’t think people quite realize just what the implications of this could mean to the future of cable television.
Let’s go back a bit in time and look at the beginnings of cable television. You had your free channels of ABC, NBC, and CBS. Anyone with a pair of rabbit ears was able to get these. They provided your local news, and if you’re lucky enough; your local sports teams will have their games broadcasted as well. If you paid a bit more, you could get channels like ESPN, MTV, Lifetime, etc. Quality programming for sure, but you were oftentimes paying for channels you’d never watch because it was part of the “package” you purchased. Finally, the most expensive option; HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime. You were getting movie channels that looped the same twenty films on repeat, and occasionally had a decent, original television show. Those were the “Dark Days”.
With the introduction of Netflix in 1999, things changed. There were always movie stores around in those dayswhere you could rent your films and tv shows and not pay those pesky subscription fees, just late ones. With Netflix, you could stay at home and get your favorite show delivered to your front door. At the same time, the premium channels were starting to produce even better content than what you could find on cable. Shows like: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Dexter, The Wire and more. Sorry Cinemax, you will still be associated with Skinemax for the time being, though The Knick is breaking that stigma. While you were paying for the same looping movies as before, this time you were also getting quality television programming that had characters and stories that you could connect to; and much more Mature Content that you couldn’t find on cable.
In 2012, Netflix introduced Lillyhammer; a Netflix Original program shown exclusively through its streaming service. You now could watch a television show, amongst all of the older seasons of past cable shows, and pay only $8 dollars a month. You didn’t need to go to cable unless you really wanted to. Heck, I haven’t had cable for ten years as a result. With Amazon Prime, Hulu, and now HBO offering stand alone programming, it’s becoming less and less reasonable to even have a cable subscription. More people are cutting the cord. The number of Americans who no longer get cable or satellite TV have increased 44 percent in the past four years to 7.6 million households, according to a new report by Experian Marketing Services.
This Cord Cutting Revolution is ushering in a new generation of television viewers, and also how we pay for that programming. HBO’s streaming service will likely be $15 a month or more. This is going to force a couple of things to happen. It will most likely make Netflix and the others to slightly raise their prices in order to match them and not see their own profits go down too much. It’s also going to serve as a GIANT blow to Time Warner, Comcast, and the others. Their ‘package deals’ will no longer be as enticing if all they can offer is MTV2 and the latest Lifetime film. I’d much rather pay for Game of Thrones at a discounted price then another horrible sitcom on ABC, or YET ANOTHER Law and Order, CSI, or NCIS.
What this means is that cable companies are either going to be forced into adding a la carte options, up the quality of programming, or likely; a mix of the two. The time for lumping a bunch of crappy channels together is about to go the way of the past as more ‘Cord Cutters’ drop off of cable in favor of streaming services and better programming in general. It doesn’t help that most new sitcoms are failing out and the new ones coming in have yet to reach Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother status. Modern Family does a great job, but shows like that are few and far between.
So, here we are, sitting on the precipice of a cable revolution. Netflix supplied the matches and HBO streaming just lit them. As the older generation begins to wane, the younger people will start dropping their cable packages faster than a home phone; and I think society will be better for it.