Yesterday, Comcast announced that it was acquiring Time Warner Cable. #1 and #2 are merging (minus 3 million subscribers to keep the FTC happy) in a move that in any other industry would have consumer advocates screaming anti-competitive. None of the analysis that I’ve read however is worried about it…
On a personal note, we cut the cord in 2010 when I finally got fed up with how expensive our cable bill was. We’ve gone from paying $200 per month with a million channels I never watched to paying $75 per month for phone, internet, and TV that I watch fully on-demand. I am not a cable subscriber, and the only thing that I miss is the occasional sporting event that can’t be picked up over-the-air (damn you NBC Bay Area!!).
There is clearly a move happening in this direction at some level that is scaring the traditional TV providers. Whether it’s cutting the cord, content from NetFlix winning Emmy’s, or the recent appellate ruling on net neutrality the rules of the game are changing. The game is going to be more and more about accessing content anywhere, and simply having a key to access the content. The key will be more and more expensive as the channels that once upon a time subsidized our cable bills become more and more irrelevant (and probably end up moving online anyway – think QVC for each niche with its own online model).
The channels that draw the crowd – sports & premium content like HBO – hold the power today. It’s all about the rights. The rights to the NFL. The rights to True Blood. And yet, MLB has a fantastic online presence, and is building an empire of its own content that it sells on its own channel. NBA.tv is there too. And the MLS presence on the Roku is fantastic.
I don’t know if ultimately HBO will sell itself a la carte (even though it’s owned by Comcast now), or continue to be the hook to get people to pay top dollar, but I do know that the game is changing for them too.
All in, we’ve got two epic players becoming one, and the reaction is just as excited as it is angry.