As you know, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show last week and most of us in the tech industry felt that this year’s show was more evolutionary than revolutionary. In past years, it wasn’t unusual to have a big, new technology innovation dominate the event but this year didn’t have the same impact. That’s not to say that there wasn’t news made: One of the big take-aways from CES this year as that the television content continues to evolve, accelerating from the traditional broadcast model to a world where streaming will dominate.
We’ve talked in the past about how more and more people are cutting the cord, that is, abandoning cable companies for alternative forms of access to their favorite shows and other content. Well, that trend is accelerating pretty dramatically. In fact, a recent study shows that almost a quarter of all millennials have either canceled their cable subscriptions or never signed up in the first place, preferring to use satellite services like Dish or DirecTV or, more frequently, streaming services like Hulu and Apple TV.
Cable companies till have the advantage, however, because they largely control two of the most popular forms of content: sports broadcasts and cable news channels. That’s what made this year’s CES so interesting. A number of deals were announced by companies to allow more sports and news content to be streamed online, which seriously affects cable companies. If their monopoly on sports and cable news shows is weakened, that will encourage yet more people to cut the cord and make the jump to streaming.
I’m especially interested in how this new dynamic will impact how news is produced and what kind of content will be generated for an audience that is no longer bound by the financial hurdles that traditional cable companies impose. We’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of video blogs available online, for example. These are basically short commentary clips put together using simple and inexpensive tools like a webcam on a computer, and posted in places like Youtube. Since there is literally no barrier to entry, it makes every one of us a potential content provider, offering our unsolicited views and opinions to anyone who wants to watch. How will the traditional news media deal with that? Will anybody care and how do you make money?
The growth of online streaming viewership is also being helped by the growing trend of professional content providers who have decided to strike out on their own. Think of them as modern day freelancers, who contribute to established online sites but get paid by the number of viewers they attract or the sponsorship deals they get. How will this new type of reporter change the news, especially since they have no real loyalties to an employer to worry about? The bottom line is that the way we have consumed the news is going to change and I’m looking forward to seeing what that means.