For all the recent noise about cord cutters – TV viewers who have ditched their cable plans in favor of streamed content – they remain a relative minority. In fact, a recent study found that major TV providers (such as Cox Cable) lost only a shockingly tiny .2% of their customers over the past couple of years.
This isn’t to say that streaming is dead. If anything, it’s just been born. Good services exist, but they’re still evolving, and have yet to see the sort of universal popularity enjoyed by traditional TV formats. Also complicating the switch is the fact that cable services remain excellent and show every sign of improving to meet the pressure of competing platforms. At the moment, cable is still king; here’s why.
Tried and True
The simplest reason behind the current dominance of cable and satellite is that many viewers already have a subscription and see no real reason to drop it. While it is possible to save money by cutting the cord, many people are perfectly happy to pay extra to keep access to a range of channels that they already know and like.
Even if that weren’t the case, streaming services can come with an imposing learning curve. A wide variety already exist, many occupying fairly clear content niches. For example, Netflix is a great option for anyone interested in movies or shows carried by the company, but a lousy one for those chasing reality shows or local news.
For cord cutters, less is often more. Streaming services allow much more freedom to pick out specific programs. Contrast that with satellite and cable, which have long traded on the incredible range of content offered by a single package.
While that variety might actually drive some people away, the strong numbers still posted by major providers suggest that plenty of other viewers are still happy to have the ability to pick from a long, long list of channels.
It’s a common growing pain for any new internet service. The moment you take things fully digital, stability can suffer. Cable, for all the clunkiness of the cords and the modems, remains incredibly reliable, and the surest way to make sure you catch every second of a live program. Dish Network’s streaming Sling TV service had one such hiccup when many users had outages while attempting to watch March Madness basketball games.
Popular programs also tend to be the most at risk. Whenever a stream is forced to handle an unexpectedly large number of viewers, videos are apt to pixelate, stutter, and sometimes blink clean out of existence.
Access to quality coverage of live sporting events has consistently been one of the clearest lines between cable streaming. And at the moment, it’s one of the biggest sticking points for cable customers. Even those who might otherwise defect to streaming services have a hard time leaving behind sports programming.
It’s hard to say how long this detente will last. The demand for streaming, on-demand sports coverage is huge, and it’s only a matter of time before a service manages to break through the barriers erected by cable companies to meet it. Some have already tried – Aereo, for example, attempted to horn in on the market before being scuppered by a lawsuit in 2014.
Although there’s an awful lot of drive behind streaming services, cable isn’t about to vacate the viewership throne. Moving forward, the industry will likely make active attempts to retake it. Plenty of major cable companies are now developing their own streaming services, and will likely take lessons from them – such as offering slimmer, or a la carte packages – and apply it to their existing services.
So if you’re with cable now, don’t sweat it, you’re not on a sinking ship. Keep your eyes out – the competition between cable and streaming is only just now beginning to heat up, and that can only mean.