Rosario Mendoza Abarcaj

For a long time, the television industry used to be a rather dead one. A consumer electronics store would sell you a humongous set, after which you’d get access to a fixed number of channels through a subscription offered by a local cable company. Understandably, this was a huge thing at the time. Just think about it: moving images on a screen — in colour! Mind is blown, right? Or perhaps to be more accurate: mind used to be blown, because this stuff seems all too trivial in today’s crazy world, which couldn’t go one day without monitors. And the technological developments just keep coming, because as if digital TV weren’t enough already, we now have something new on the horizon again: smart TV. Now, I don’t think anyone with a black-and-white set could possibly have foreseen what would come of these funny-looking rectangles merely half a century later, but here we are anyway…

Rhetorical questions

Let’s get straight to the point here: who still watches televised films anymore? Who still waits until a predetermined date and time for their favourite series to air? I hope you like rhetorical questions, because that’s exactly what these happen to be. With services like Netflix and HBO on the rise, traditional TV has gradually been losing power to these more flexible ways of consuming TV — much in the same way that streaming services have done in the music industry. Will the TV industry suffer the same fate, becoming increasingly fragmented over time, or will it keep itself together? And what do these changes mean for the cable companies?

Cable companies, whose main source of income is obviously the subscription fees that they charge, might find themselves in serious trouble because of this development — especially in the long run. As consumers continue to demand more flexibility in the way that they consume TV, their disregard of many of the channels on offer will soon come to the industry’s attention — as well as their own. As soon as people come to realise that it doesn’t make much sense to be paying for 100 channels if they only ever watch about 10 of those, they’ll demand change. So in order to keep these consumers on board, cable companies will have to find a way to continue to appeal to them. That won’t be easy, for the pull from the aforementioned services is getting stronger and stronger with each passing day.

Back to basics

So what might watching TV look like in the future? For one thing, it’s gonna be a much more flexible experience. Whether you like it or not, the days of that big rectangular box sitting in the corner of the living room, with a family happily watching a game show together, appear to be over. In the future, practically any device that can connect to the internet will be a TV, and we can already start to see traditional TV subscriptions declining in the United States. Personally, I think that there is little hope for the cable companies, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t feel very sorry for them. Think about it: what do cable companies actually do? While it’s true that they were the ones who provided households with the infrastructure that was required to even watch TV in the first place, today they’re just an intermediary, merely bundling TV channels into a package that they then sell to consumers. With the rise of the internet, there’s clearly no need for such an intermediary anymore. The truth is that, beyond the infrastructure, cable companies are providing little (if any) value today. That doesn’t mean that they’ll be gone with the wind, as some have begun to offer new services (such as home security), but the cable business as we know it today will soon be a thing of the past.