Video services

It's the End of TV as We Know It

Once upon a time, television was a common cultural experience. Now, however, the media universe is so fractured that every program is competing against shows on hundreds of other channels, on multiple different video services and ranging in time from the current moment to decades in the past.

At the end of December I wrote about OTT's big rise in 2016, but the truth is that 2016 was only a harbinger of what's to come. (See OTT Went Big in 2016, Aims Higher in 2017.)

Here's what's happened in the first two weeks of 2017 alone.

CEO Mike Hopkins shared details on Hulu LLC 's soon-to-launch pay-TV service while speaking at the Citi 2017 Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas. According to Hopkins, the service will sell for under $40 per month (the price won't go up after an introductory period like DirecTV Now), and will include content from ABC, CBS, Fox and ESPN, among others. NBC is not on board yet.

A sneak peek at the new Hulu interface (reported on by Business Insider) suggests the service will be highly personalized and will highlight live and on-demand content side by side. Hulu's skinny-bundle offering will also come with cloud DVR access.

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has hinted for years that it plans to bring a new TV service to market, but it's never been able to arrange the necessary content licensing deals to make its dream of competing with cable a reality. Now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is turning its attention to original content. According to the WSJ, Apple is in talks to buy the rights to brand new TV shows and movies with the goal of making the programming available on its $10-per-month streaming music service.

Want to know more about video and TV market trends? Check out our dedicated video services content channel here on Light Reading.

Let's try to unpack that one for a moment. Apple reportedly now wants to spend money on original programming, but it wants that content to be supplementary to its existing music service rather than part of a new streaming video play. That's not the bundle we were expecting.

Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) officially launched its AirTV Player at CES in Las Vegas. (See Dish AirTV Launch Pairs OTA & OTT)

The hybrid hardware is designed to promote Dish's cordcutting Sling TV product, but also to make other OTT services like Netflix available, and to pair those services with over-the-air broadcast TV. Dish is also highlighting 4K support with the new AirTV Player and adding value to the product with the phased rollout of a new cloud DVR feature for the on-board Sling TV service.

Dish is offering a lot of content by combining Sling TV with the AirTV Player, but access is still somewhat patchy. Sling TV doesn't include CBS in its line-up, for example, but the broadcast network is available with an OTA antenna attached to the AirTV Player.

So why does this mean the end of TV as we know it?
TV isn't going away, but the shared experience of TV has fragmented in much the same way that many people now depend on personally tuned news feeds rather than watching a common news program or subscribing to a national newspaper.

Among TV services, it's increasingly true that there is no core bundle of content, no core feature set and no standard price for delivery. The television experience is what you make it, not what gets handed to you in a traditional pay-TV package.

In one sense, this phase of the OTT revolution is great for service providers because it means there's ample room to differentiate. But in another sense, it means there's a lot of noise in the video marketplace, and it's going to be increasingly difficult for individual providers to stand out from the crowd.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

danielcawrey 1/14/2017 | 9:51:50 PM
Re: Other OTA mash-ups Hard to even identify TV as a common cultural experience any more. With more and more services coming, even Apple getting into the game, it will be interesting to see what services survive. The big tech companies can keep a service going forever as long as it helps with other product and service lines. 
inkstainedwretch 1/13/2017 | 3:27:02 PM
Water coolers and dilutions Agreed on both things. Back in the day, if you watched something on TV, chances are that a minimum of one-third of your fellow TV watchers would have seen it too, and you had something in common to talk about around the watercooler. I've seen it mentioned elsewhere that in all of human history, that's really the only time that's ever happened.

And there are only so many different sources of content the market can sustain without having to return to some version of bundling. If you're going to spend $8-$15 dollars on four or five OTT services, you might as well just keep your cable subsciption.

Under those circumstances, as an OTT provider you need to become (or also become) another channel. This is hardly a brilliant observation -- Netflix figured that out at least three years ago, probably more.
--Brian Santo
msilbey 1/13/2017 | 11:52:38 AM
Other OTA mash-ups I didn't even get into the other OTA+OTT products making the rounds in retail including new offerings from Tablo and Mohu.
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