Are you still paying for cable or satellite? A number of Canadians are choosing to watch their favourite shows online instead. CTV News Channel had me on this week to help work out a new industry report that suggests that 100,000 Canadian homes have already “cut the cord” while another 100,000 are expected to do the same this year.
“Cutting the cord” is a term used by the television industry that covers three groups of people:
1. Those who have decided to put up an old-fashioned antennae. You can get ones now that can pick up High Definition broadcast signals and some people are using them to pull in over-the-air broadcasts for free. Reception is spotty depending on where you live (those closest to the border get the most channels), but it does work even if I can say it’s the future.
2. Your average computer user who is watching episodes of popular programs online. Many broadcasters now stream their shows through their websites or through mobile apps. Originally you have people using laptop or iPad to catch an episode they’ve missed, but then then realizing it it works as a main source if you only watch a small number of programs each week.
3. The more tech-savvy are combining online rental services such as iTunes or Netflix with dedicated devices that can play the content on a television such as an Apple TV, Boxee Box, or video game systems. True, downloading illegitimate copies from piracy sites is still popular, but complicated for average users to master.
While some of these options deliver free content, most of the new digital services come with subscription fees and so the advantages cord-cutters are discovering have more to do with quality and convenience.
Finding your shows online means you can watch them when you want and without having to remember to record them first. You can watch entire seasons in a row, great for narrative-driven shows, but most importantly because you can freely pick-and-choose from an entire library, users find their general viewing habits are more sophisticated and selective. You’re no longer stuck with watching “whatever’s on”.
Should broadcasters worry? No, their content is still be accessed, in some cases with advertising or subscriptions included, but merely by different means. It’s cable and satellite companies such as Bell and Rogers who are losing revenue from cancelled subscriptions and while 200,000 people may be a low statistic overall, the behavious is similar to the revolution in music. Once people make the switch to watching TV online, there’s no sign that they will ever switch back.
For broadcasters the issue will be new competition as the internet offers access to big players such as Facebook, YouTube, or Apple who deliver streaming movies, but may move into television shows, both as distributors, but potentially and content creators. There are also a number of smaller services, such as Hulu in the United States, that may move across the border and compete and small distributors television-like programming.