According to pretty much everyone, we're in the "golden age" of television. But new data shows a huge jump in people who are ready to ditch cable as well as disastrous satisfaction ratings for the industry. Despite investing $US300 ($403) million in fixing its customer service problems, Comcast managed to sink another six per cent in popularity this year.
A new study by Magid Proprietary Insights, the number of people who say they are extremely likely to drop their cable provider this year was almost double that of the previous year. Nine per cent of respondents said they will most likely cut the cord in 2017 as opposed to just 1.9 per cent in 2011.
While the sudden boom in available streaming and bundled TV options is surely a factor, dissatisfaction with cable providers has also increased this year. The American Consumer Satisfaction Index found that once again, cable TV and internet service providers have the least satisfied customers surveyed. Considering the provider of both services tends to be the same company for most Americans, it's not a surprise that the two industries tied with a satisfaction rating of just 64 per cent. Mediacom came in last place with 56 per cent and Comcast fell six points, coming in at 58 per cent.
An important factor for the streaming/bundled TV industry will also be attracting new customers who weren't cable customers before. I've never had cable TV as an adult, but I'm taking YouTube TV for a spin right now. I like it ok, so far, and I might hang on to it.
But don't expect Hulu, YouTube or Sling to save us from the wretched telecoms. They just keep merging and spreading their tentacles through the entire industry. You might end up liking your streamlined, cheaper bundle better than the traditional model but you'll still have little to no choice for an ISP. And these same companies will own the networks and control the content that's being delivered.
Just yesterday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spoke at the annual JP Morgan Technology, Media, and Telecom conference in Boston. He had some interesting ideas about how to screw up your favourite shows. For instance, what if Game of Thrones was 2/3rds shorter every episode? AT&T plans to buy Time Warner for $US85.4 ($115) billion, making it the new owner of HBO. "I'll cause [HBO CEO Richard] Plepler to panic," the just-spitballing-here CEO said. He is thinking "about things like Game of Thrones. In a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience. Maybe you want a 20-minute episode." One way to do this, in his eyes, would be to chop up shows in different ways for different devices.
Another option for Stephenson would be to let the artists make their work and keep his mouth shut because without them, there'd be nothing to watch on his horrible service. But I'm no CEO.