Hold off on that obit for now. The death of cable-TV was declared prematurely. The patient is still healthy, with only minor ailments that any savvy expert can solve by applying the cure suggested below.

 

SerafiniLately there has been a lot of talk about the demise of cable TV, due to encroaching OTT services like Apple TV, Netflix and Roku.

In my view, the so-called “demise” is more a result of cable TV’s shortsightedness than the foresightedness of the competition.

But cable is not alone — print media is going through the same type of managerial shortsightedness. For the print media, if it would return to the old family-run operations instead of Wall Street-run agendas, the problem would cease to exist, guaranteed.

As an example, take a look at the poor way print media treats newsstand distribution, and you’ll get an idea of the type of incompetence the industry is facing.  There are other issues, like shedding pure editorial status to become party and conference organizers, but other “My2¢” editorials have already covered that topic.

Back to cable TV woes. In New York City, I’m now able to receive more channels with my indoor digital TV aerial antenna than with my basic cable TV subscription. The reason I still tolerate cable is because of its broadband service, which supplements my DSL Telco service, both of which have a tendency to go on the fritz every once in a while. If it weren’t for broadband, I would never subscribe to cable: it is too expensive, too limited, and too unnecessary.

I also don’t subscribe to Netflix, because outside of famous first-run fare like House of Cards and Orange is The New Black, there is nothing else of real interest (e.g., good movies) that I cannot find on other a-la-carte OTT services.

Now that I showered you with complaints, here is my recipe for cable TV success:

An a-la-carte model is not good, because it would deprive viewers of the opportunity to become intelligent via exposure to “highbrow” channels. It’s like keeping fruit and vegetables in a junk-food shack. People may ignore them, but at least are reminded that they are good and necessary.

I’d go even further by advocating that cable TV should stimulate the creation of more channels not available on OTA and OTT. If OTT strategy is to gain subscribers with challenging content, cable TV should focus on more exclusive basic channels on an ad-splitting revenue basis, helping those channels with local and regional ads (the channel itself would focus on national ads).

However, cable subscription rates have to come down, basic offerings have to expand and service has to improve. In my personal case, a cable company recently decided to replace my STB, with the only warning being a blank screen on my TV. When I called for service, I was told to go across town to get a new STB at an exorbitant extra cost. That’s no way to treat a gentleman! (Or a lady for that matter!)

Basic cable has to include all the FTA mux channels, like CBS-1, CBS-2, etc. In addition, all the channels should come one after another; not like now, when subscribers find a blank screen between, say, channel 7 and channel 9. That’s not providing a good service, and it puts cable TV’s lack of concern for their subscribers in plain sight.

In addition, cable packages not only have to offer value (the years when cable was the only game in town are long gone) but also options like a-la-carte, mini-bundling, full bundling and, most importantly, split-revenue deals with OTT services.

Finally, if cable TV wants to stay in the video business, their broadband service has to subsidize their video offerings, just like Google subsidizes their broadband network and Amazon their VoD service.

Dom Serafini

Audio Version (a DV Works service)