2014 saw the highest peak in cable television subscribers in the US, but the downfall of cable wasn’t far behind the surge in subscriptions. Netflix, which started as a DVD delivery service, continued to branch out into the streaming arena and took the blame for the sudden drop in cable subscriptions across the nation. Now, many years later, cable subscriptions continue to fall, as the primary customer base grows restless with high bills and lackluster service.
Users are cutting the cord and switching to streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video in droves, abandoning their cable subscriptions for streamlined digital delivery of their favorite shows. For a long time, the main downside of streaming was that it lacked live broadcasts — an area where cable TV ruled supreme. These days, more and more streaming services offer live TV packages to compete directly with cable providers. Consumers can access live broadcasts through Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Sling and more.
What is the appeal of streaming TV shows and movies? For starters, the monthly bill is typically lower than that of cable. Users also get access to original content that isn’t available on cable TV such as Netflix’s Stranger Things and Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale. There is also the addicting on-demand relationship users set up with streaming platforms. Consumers don’t have to wait for shows to air on cable TV — they can log on whenever and wherever and watch shows on their own time.
This might sound like cable TV’s death is an open and close case, but thankfully for them, cable TV providers still have a few tricks up their sleeves. The attraction to on-demand TV is real and visceral. Cable providers are using that attraction to keep fighting.
Most cable TV providers now offer their own on-demand streaming apps that provide quick access to all the best shows and movies that a cable subscription offers — all at your fingertips whenever you want them.
During the COVID-19 pandemic consumers are accessing their cable TV provider’s on-demand applications more than usual. Much of the nation is staying home or working remotely and taking advantage of the on-demand entertainment available.
Streaming vs. Cable Post-Coronavirus
In a post-COVID-19 world, consumers are streaming more shows than ever before. Many people have significantly more free time on their hands, during which they are tapping into a massive on-demand database on their favorite streaming platform.
However, research into streaming habits post-coronavirus shows that while Netflix and Hulu use has gone up, cable TV application use has gone up more. Consumers who pay for cable TV packages are taking advantage of their provider’s on-demand apps more often than consumers without cable TV are using streaming platforms.
Consumers are currently more interested in accessing the TV shows and movies only found on cable than watching the original shows only found on streaming services.
Charter, Comcast and AT&T are Offering it All
Charter Communications, which provides Spectrum Internet, TV and phone service and Comcast which provides XFINITY Internet, TV and phone service, both offer on-demand apps that are competing with Netflix and Hulu during the pandemic. Charter and Comcast are two of the most prominent players in the cable TV game and are taking their competition with streaming seriously. AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, is working diligently to stay in the game and offering a complimentary streaming app for its subscribers.
Spectrum currently boasts thousands of on-demand shows and movies while Xfinity comes with free access to Peacock, a new streaming platform. DIRECTV also offers thousands of on-demand options and AT&T’s Ultimate TV plan has close to 55,000 choices.
Consumers won’t get as large a library as on Netflix or Hulu in some cases, but coupling access to on-demand services with regular live broadcasts is an attractive package. Consumers have the option of sitting in front of their TV for a night of binge watching or taking their favorite shows on the go with them on their mobile device. With the advent of cable TV on-demand streaming, cable providers made themselves relevant once again.
Cable TV still comes at a heftier price than a single streaming subscription. The cord-cutting movement started for a reason and will likely continue despite Charter, Comcast and AT&T’s best efforts. However, many customers will stay with cable and subscribe to a lower-cost plan with complimentary streaming access.
Getting Better Going Forward
Cable TV providers have been stepping up their game in recent years and offering more perks to retain their current customers and attract new ones. For example, Xfinity is giving free premium memberships to Peacock, which is a $4.99/month value that comes with a host of NBC and Universal content.
Consumers are responding to this effort by slowing down the cord-cutting movement, even if minimally, and taking advantage of on-demand streaming at a higher rate than users without a cable TV package. Cable TV providers are taking this situation seriously and, so far, haven’t balked at the idea of offering more for less if it means they don’t lose consumers to the likes of Netflix.
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