Is Cable TV worth keeping now?


There is a lot of good discussion by tech websites recently about the developments in internet television. The buzz this last week was mostly about the new desktop client for Hulu. It's been getting good exposure on GeekBrief.tv, Engadget, Lifehacker, Ars Technica and some others... it's pretty early to tell how well this will be received, as it's been mentioned that it doesn't offer all the shows that are available on the Hulu.com website. Gizmodo and TechCrunch posed the question of whether or not it's worth keeping a regular Cable TV subscription when this new application makes so much content available from the comfort your couch (if you have a Windows or Mac HTPC). Personally, I haven't watched a single network television show on cable in quite some time - maybe years. I could easily see what this generation defines as "TV Shows" falling under a completely different definition in several years.

My opinion is that spectator sports will most likely be the reason that people won't quit cable or satellite TV just yet. Watching football or hockey in real time is the best way to enjoy the sport without actually being there... Especially if you have a 50" HDTV and 5.1 surround sound system in your living room. HDTV adoption is still pretty early, and unless people start buying Blu-Ray players, the main source of HD content they'll have at their fingertips is cable or satellite HD programming - for now.

If Hulu makes the impact that some of these tech sites are hoping it will, there's a good chance, more content aggregating sites like Hulu may spring up... but it's much too early to tell how internet TV will really play out. Right now, the momentum is swinging in Hulu's favor and they're ready and willing to spend the ad dollars to put the Hulu.com name in front of viewers in high-priced Super Bowl ads. Do they have the opportunity to be another YouTube or Facebook? Perhaps.

It's ironic that less than two years ago, there was some serious doubt as to whether a major network-supported (NBC, Fox, and others) site like Hulu could survive. Recently, they got a major boost in credibility with Disney purchasing a major holding in their company. That will put some pressure on Hulu to deliver revenue... but with essentially free TV and movies, it's only major competitors would be piracy (bittorrent) or YouTube. Now we're seeing YouTube moving in the direction of hosting full-length movies on their site to compete with Hulu - but will that be enough to keep the tide from turning in Hulu's favor? There is a lot of ground for Hulu to catch up in the sheer volume of visitors when they're compared to YouTube, but Hulu's numbers are climbing pretty dramatically.

There still aren't enough people yet who are "cutting the cord" for Nielson to be convinced that standard cable or broadcast television is in any danger. Frankly, I doubt the generation moving into adulthood now is going to care much where they get their TV fix as long as it's delivered any time, and any where. Which means cable will still live on at least a few more years. On demand services like Comcast, and time and place shifting abilities of Slingbox and TiVo make it easier and to watch TV and movies when and where the viewer wants. This is where the medium is headed - we're definitely in the infancy of this entertainment revolution. I just hope we can keep the pipes growing fast enough to satisfy those hungry HDTV sets.

Comments

  1. I've been without cable since the 44'th Street days, and all I really miss is the sports coverage. I only get to watch a couple playoff games with hockey, and I never get to see Monday Night Football. Otherwise, all the TV I want is available free via hulu and converter box, or a la cart via Xbox Live. I paid about $20 for this season of LOST, about the same for Battlestar Galactica. No commercials, cheaper than buying the DVDs, and with the upcoming Zune and Xbox Live Marketplace integration, I'll be able to take them wherever I go.

    My only gripe is that watching TV on the desktop sucks when Verizon's service is slow and the chair is way less comfortable.

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