In an article last week, Media Daily News cited Time Warner Cable CFO John Martin’s statement that he expects half of all pay-TV homes in the U.S. will have the option of a TV Everywhere service to go along with their subscription. Cable and satellite companies are moving rapidly to give their customers “any time, any where” access to their programming content over the Internet. Martin also said he would not be surprised if the number of homes reached 50 million by this time next year.
TV Everywhere is an important movement in the subscription-based TV programming market. While consumers can access some TV content for free on the Internet — such as through Hulu or the individual network sites — they also want to be able to watch the premium channels and live programming that they have paid for as part of their subscriptions. The services are responding in hopes of being able to retain their customers and attract new ones.
I think that this is a great idea in general, but I’m concerned that it may backfire on the subscription services. If the TV Everywhere offerings are primarily the dozens of channels that people don’t watch that much anyway, or if there is an additional premimum charged to watch the “good” ones, I believe that it will put added pressure on the subscription services to offer “a la carte” pricing. With monthly bills of $100 to $200 being common, consumers would love to pick and choose which networks they want and not pay for the rest. But this would be the death knell for cable and satellite as we know it; I doubt that most could survive the loss of revenue for the “other” channels that don’t have much of an audience but round up the total channel count (and HD content count) for these companies. And then there’s the question of whether people will need the basic service at all; if given the choice of just getting their all content over the Internet, will they take down their dishes and cut off the coax?