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Welcome to the beginning of the end for pay TV bundles

Zach Epstein
August 18th, 2015 at 8:30 AM
Pay TV Subscribers 2015

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and pay TV companies do not feel fine. In fact, they are hurting quite badly, and things are only going to get worse. Perhaps it’s karmic retribution for years of anti-consumer policies. Or perhaps these behemoths just thought that their lobbying dollars could shield them from reality forever.

Whatever the case, the bottom line is clear and simple: U.S. media giants are in trouble, and we won’t see many tears shed if they topple.

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Actually, that’s not true at all — we’ll see plenty of tears shed. As noted by Sector & Sovereign Research’s Paul Sagawa in a recent research note, eight giant U.S. media companies lost a combined $46.2 billion in market capitalization in one day recently, following the news that even pay TV darling ESPN is losing subscribers.

Indeed, we can expect investors to shed plenty of tears on the way down.

Meanwhile, Sagawa noted that Netflix’s subscriber base was up 17% in the most recent quarter, and Google’s monthly YouTube viewership increased 40% on-year. The days of linear TV are unquestionably numbered at this point, as are the days of the traditional pay TV bundle.

“The TV industry’s response has been cautious, licensing live feeds to DISH, SONY and, likely, AAPL for skinny bundle OTT services, but refusing to allow cloud-based DVR functionality,” Sagawa wrote. “Trends suggest that online linear TV may prove less than popular. Hub Entertainment Research recently reported that 53% of all US video viewing is time-shifted – DVR, on-demand, or streaming – with millennials even less likely to watch linear TV. TWX and CBS have jumped in with on-demand streaming versions of their premium channels, but at price points too high to encourage cord cutting.”

The analyst continued, “We believe network TV is at the beginning of a long squeeze between weakening fees and ad sales on one side and rising content costs on the other. Streaming rivals will have increasingly larger scale, better data, and deeper pockets to buy more of the best content, including the life blood of linear TV – live sports. We acknowledge that the exodus that has begun will take many years to complete, but it is, nonetheless, inevitable. Media players that are diversified away from the cable bundle, e.g. DIS, or already moving to solidify their bona fides as streamers, e.g. TWX, may fare better than others, but all will suffer. Meanwhile, NFLX and GOOG should continue to reap the rewards of their dominance for online video.”

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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