As the phenomenon of predicting the death of TV via cord cutters is waning, it’s being replaced by a plausible (at first) sounding theory: cord nevers. Whereas a cord cutter is one who cancels their Pay-TV service for free/streaming alternatives, a cord never is, roughly, a person under the age of 22 who, upon renting their first apartment after college, never subscribes for TV services in the first place. My theory at this point is these people may live happily cable-free for a year or few, but sooner or later, they’ll pay. Here’s a few reasons why:
The single most common binding element pulling modern culture together today is TV, and I can’t see anything replacing that in the short term. As someone nearing the end of their first year watching entirely “catch up” I’ve noticed, multiple times, the feeling of being left out of some conversations. By the way, I’d like to keep this post and ensuing discussion free from judgment regarding watching decisions – I don’t care what the show is, everyone’s free to be entertained however they’d like. But I currently have no idea what exactly a Honey Boo Boo is, nor what the Amish Mafia are after, and I have literally zero friends who just finished Season 4 of The Wire like I just did (btw – awesome). I believe the natural gravitas of “fitting in” will drive most people toward paying.
Cheapest Entertainment Around
Estimates vary, but for a typical 4+ hours/day home, watching TV with a pay-TV provider works out to about $0.25/hour. People love to complain about their cable bill, but they really wouldn’t if they did the math. (not that I’m advocating any provider, I’m just not dissing on them either). Then again, math is hard.
victoryag.org Laziness FTW
While it’s certainly simple enough to browse Netflix on my Apple TV, find a show, then watch it, it’s nowhere near as simple as turning on the TV, then pushing “channel up” enough times until something watchable appears. As I’ve blogged about elsewhere, I fundamentally believe in the “escapism” nature of TV watching, which makes an all-on-demand lifestyle a lot of work.
More Money, Less Time
It’s easy to talk about “those kids today” and their willingness to watch movies in 10 minute increments on YouTube. Yeah, I remember college too – I had loads of free time, no money. Now I have no time, and while I don’t have loads of money, I can easily do the mental math to figure out the money value of time makes hunting around websites and menus not a good use of time.
TV, now with Free Internets!
As the pay-TV industry has morphed into MVPDs (“multichannel video programming distributor” – worst rename ever!) and offer Internet and voice and home automation and monitoring and security and dishwashing and laundry and other services (mostly for sheer profit – other than the laundry part), the allocation of revenue is less relevant for them. They can offer quintuple packages and more because it doesn’t really cost them anything, and most have invested so much money into capital expansion that they can continue to lay out new value added services for incremental costs. So perhaps we’ll eventually pay for TV, with free everything else – or vice versa – it just won’t matter that much.
While I do fundamentally believe we are in the middle of the most transformative era of television behaviors since the advent of the cable industry, I also think we are far from a radical new world. Looking forward to constructive comments and feedback below.
I think you have a valid point. Cord nevers are usually that because they don’t have jobs and have no money to pay for tv. as they get jobs and make money, the convenience is easily paid for.
However, as technology makes it easier to get what you want, when you want it, without paying $17 a month for DVR and disruption happens, i think there will be fewer people paying for what exists today. Someone will offer an a la carte model, and that will expand from there. Aereo is making things interesting. Also depends on jobs/economy. I’m lazy, but won’t mind canceling cable to save money. Which I’m doing right now, literally, as we speak. Live sports is always the issue. But aereo and tuners make it possible. Power is still with content providers. They know this.
It is an interesting time, indeed.
There’s something to be said for your argument about cultural zeitgeist, but I think DVR usage may limit how powerful this is as a draw. Even before I ditched cable, my DVR use pretty much drove me away from anything that could contain a spoiler. Now that I’ve cut the cord, I don’t even realize that I’m missing watercooler buzz. As far as cost and laziness goes, I pay way less to subscribe to TiVo + Netflix and then get free signals via an HD Antenna. I can’t speak for others, but after 4 years cable free, I’m pretty confident that I won’t be a subscriber again in the near future.
Interesting perspective. Another way of emphasizing your final point, which I strongly agree with, is; let’s not forget that regardless of the source of your TV content, whether it’s from cable or from broadband, you still need a Cord to view it. So, regardless of your choice to pay for TV, or not, you still need to pay for your broadband connection. Cable companies understand this very well. That is why they are moving towards an IP-Only TV network capable of delivering any type of content, from live sports to YouTube videos. My prediction is that in the future there will be a Basic package which will be nothing more than just a medium data rate broadband connection, with the freedom to stream anything you can find on the net, but not at the speed needed for a quality real-time viewing experience. And, for a few dollars more, you will be able to upgrade to a higher speed connection and a series of tiered packages including live sports, live social programming such as “The View” and Movies on Demand streamed at higher bit rates compared to the medium bit rates offered in the Basic package.
So why hasn’t this happened yet? Because the Cable companies are still figuring out the monetization models with advertisers and other content sources such as Netflix. They also need more time to get the new IP-Only infrastructure in place and the newly designed content management systems that will allow subscribers to find what they’re looking for, easily and quickly. But it’s coming, and when it does, the subject of “Cord Cutting” will be a page in the history books.