What CES 2015 made clear: The cable industry has lost its power to control how we watch TV

CES 2015 Cable TV

If the cable industry had its way, we’d all be stuck subscribing to $150 TV bundles forever and ever. However, the rise of over-the-top online streaming services combined with faster online connectivity means that cable’s ability to force us to buy into pricey bundles is about to end… and this was nowhere more clear than at CES 2015.

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The big cable-related game changer at CES this year was Dish’s announcement that it would soon offer a standalone web TV service called Sling TV that will give you access to ESPN, ESPN 2, the Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim for $19.99 per month.

Couple this with recent announcements that HBO has already announced plans to launch a standalone streaming service next year and consider that Showtime is reportedly going to soon follow suit, and you can see the traditional cable bundle is coming unraveled.

And that’s not all — most of the major smart TVs unveiled at CES this year boasted of how they came with apps for popular streaming services embedded in their operating systems right out of the box. This means that even if consumers have never bought a Roku or a Chromecast, they’ll still be able to access big-time streaming apps from the minute they buy a new 4K TV.

Some naysayers will point out that if you subscribe to Sling TV, HBO, Showtime, Netflix and Hulu, you’ll end up paying as much, if not more, than you did with your cable bundle. While that’s true, it also completely misses the point: You now have a choice of whether to get all these channels or whether to pick and choose the ones you want. This is, in other words, the closest thing to straight-up a la carte programming American TV viewers have ever seen.

And this market for online streaming services is only just getting started — the prices and packages being offered right now are just content providers dipping their toes in the water to see whether consumers will bite. As time goes on, I imagine we’ll see even more competitive deals and creative package offerings that will be more finely attuned to individual consumers’ needs.

At any rate, the cat is definitely out of the bag. Just as consumers didn’t want to be forced to buy full CDs to get the one song they liked, nor do they like having to pay lots of money for hundreds of channels they never watch just to get the one channel they do want. The cable bundle is rapidly becoming a thing of the past and I, for one, welcome this brave new TV viewing world.

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