It is cable losing the battle against streaming services
When cable emerged in the early 80’s, the world of television changed forever. It went from a few network channels to many specific interest channels. With all the new options, network TV audience was shared with many other channels. Cable was in the rise, new niche channels coming to cable every month, as 24 hours news and sports, music, food, travel, etc.
Moving forward to the 21st century, audiences have a new option to watch television, streaming services. Platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ have rapidly gained popularity, capturing more and more viewers with their original shows and the freedom to watch them anytime.
Does this mean that cable is losing the battle against streaming services? Let’s review this topic in more details.
Viewers, especially younger ones, are increasingly favoring streaming services over traditional cable TV. This could be attribute to several factors, as the convenience of on-demand content, ads free, the ability to watch on multiple devices, and the personalized content that streaming platforms offer.
To grow subscriptions, streaming services have invested heavily in original content, which has been a significant attraction for subscribers. Shows and movies exclusive to platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and others have attracted substantial viewership and critical acclaim. Cable TV, while still offering a range of content, is often seen as less innovative.
Another point in favor of streaming services is the cost. Cable packages are more expensive compared to streaming subscriptions, and some of the packages include channels that viewers don’t watch. While streaming services offer more flexibility, where users can subscribe to specific platforms based on their content preferences and budget.
New technological advancement has made streaming more accessible. Smart TVs and devices like Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and Apple TV has made accessing streaming services more convenient than ever. Meanwhile, cable TV still largely depends on traditional infrastructure and set-top boxes.
In response to the surge of streaming services, many cable companies are adapting and now offer their own streaming platforms or packages and including more on-demand content. They are also taking advantage of their strengths in live TV, especially for sports and news, areas where streaming services are still catching up. Also, as more streaming services enter the market, competition for subscribers is getting fierce. This could eventually lead to consolidation and a shift in the market’s dynamics.
Cable does not have to rely heavily on high-speed internet, as streaming services do. This is an advantage for cable in areas with poor connectivity, as rural area.
Now let see what the numbers say:
The number of cable TV subscribers has been decreasing over the years. In 2023, the subscriber count dropped to 72.2 million from 98.7 million in 2016. Cable TV companies experienced substantial losses in 2023, with over 2.748 million subscribers lost in just the first half of the year, averaging about 15,000 subscribers lost daily. If this trend continues, the loss could exceed 4 million subscribers for the year.
For the contrary, the overall global market for video streaming services has grown remarkably, with the number of users estimated to be close to 1.8 billion in 2023, up from 1.1 billion in 2020.
Netflix, as a leading streaming service, had around 238.4 to 247.2 million global subscribers by mid to late 2023, with millions of new subscribers added each quarter. Other major streaming platforms also reported substantial subscriber bases: Disney+ with over 157 million, Amazon Prime Video closely behind Netflix with 220 million, HBO Max with 95.6 million, and Hulu with around 48.3 million subscribers.
Even if the trend in the last few years shows a clear shift from traditional cable TV to streaming services. it would be premature to claim that the battle between cable and streaming is a one-sided affair. Both industries are undergoing a significant period of transformation and adaptation. As such, it would be more accurate to view this as a period of coexistence, rather than a clear victory for one over the other. After all, the ever-evolving nature of technology and viewer preferences make it impossible to predict the future of home entertainment.