Cable TV Companies Look At Online Future | Brilliant Innovation or Too Little, Too Late?

1 min read

If you can’t beat them, join them. This is true of many aspects of life, and it’s a strategy the cable companies seem set to adopt in their ongoing fight to stop shedding subscribers who are increasingly choosing online video over their premium services.

Faced with two options: paying a set monthly fee for cable television you probably won’t have time to watch, or watching online video for free, if and when you choose to. This is the choice facing many people today, and it could spell disaster for the cable companies.

Cable Companies Are Losers

As online video grows, with the expansion of free options, broadband speeds increasing, and high-definition becoming a reality, not everyone is set to gain. The biggest losers are no doubt set to be the cable companies who exist by charging small fortunes for hundreds of channels you may not ever watch.

Subscriber numbers are down, and people who forsaken their cable TV service often explain that they’ve finally given up the expense in favor of free Web television offerings. Certainly Hulu, Joost and the like offer an alternative, and with applications such as Boxee enabling online video to be played comfortably on big screen televisions, cable companies could be about to go down.

But they’re not going to go down without a fight, and it looks as though, realizing they can’t beat online video, they’re going to join in instead.

A New Plan Of Action

The Wall Street Journal

today reports how Time Warner Cable and Comcast are discussing plans with major TV networks to put shows online, but make them accessible only by subscribers.

Sources claim network owners such as Viacom, Time Warner, and NBC Universal are involved. Any deal done could see large numbers of these and others’ shows made available on the Web but only to people retaining their cable subscription.

Too Little, Too Late

This is clearly an attempt to stop the rush of people giving up their cable subscriptions after realizing they can use Hulu and the like to watch television online for free instead. By offering more content than Hulu could ever do, the cable companies must be hoping to persuade people those monthly bills are worth paying.

It is nice to see old media finally realizing that new media is becoming a force to be reckoned with, but this plan is reacting after the horse has already bolted and disappeared into the sunset.



and online video in general, works for two main reasons – complete on-demand flexibility, and the fact it’s 100% free. Even if there are adverts, they tend to be unobtrusive and few and far between.

If this plan was put into action, the free aspect would be completely lost because the cable companies would still be asking you to pay top dollar for their services. And there would likely be ads on top of that subscription fee. And would it even be on-demand? There’s no point offering programming over the Web just for the sake of it after all.

I’m left thinking this is a nice try but it’s doomed to fail. The world is moving away from subscription models and cable TV companies aren’t going to give that up anytime soon. Which means people will still be leaving left, right, and center. Especially in the middle of a stinking recession.