Remember back in the late 1990s when recording companies kept insisting that everyone had to buy an entire album just to get the one or two songs they actually wanted? That didn’t work out so well for them after Napster and other music sharing services made it impossible for them to force consumers to buy CDs. The TV industry is facing a similar situation right now and, like the music industry before it, it’s crawling into a shell and hoping technological progress just goes away.
A recent report in The Wall Street Journal reveals that Time Warner is trying to take away Hulu’s rights to stream TV shows online the day after they air. The reason Time Warner wants this to stop is because it thinks it gives consumers more incentive to cut the cord instead of ponying up lots more money every month for big pay TV bundles.
This is the kind of shortsighted decision-making that I still find surprising even though it is all too common in the TV industry.
If you take away Hulu’s rights to stream shows the day after they air, then you will see a mass subscriber exodus. The major reason I subscribe to Hulu in the first place is so I don’t have to watch my favorite network TV shows right when they air — I can simply catch up with them online whenever I feel like it. Take that away and Hulu is left with a mediocre selection of movies and just one original show (Casual) that I enjoy watching.
What’s particularly baffling about this is Time Warner doesn’t seem to understand that when you don’t offer people legitimate means to get their favorite content online, they will inevitably turn to piracy. Time Warner subsidiary HBO understands this perfectly well, which is why it now lets cord cutters subscribe to its HBO Now service that gives them access to their favorite shows without having to also pay for a cable bundle.
The technology behind TV streaming is out of the bag and Time Warner will not be able to put it back in again. Younger viewers don’t want to be forced to watch traditional linear TV now that Netflix has spoiled them with the joys of binge watching. Media companies like Time Warner should be following Netflix’s lead but instead they’re desperately trying to cling to the past and hope that they can force everyone to stick with the old bundle model.
Good luck with that.