Unless you don’t believe Nielsen -- and there are people in this camp -- 98% of premium video viewing remained on traditional TV as of the fourth quarter 2011, all after many years of growing digital video platforms.
Factor in that 98% number with another interesting number: 90.4% of U.S. TV homes – 103.5 million households -- get their TV via cable, satellite or telco operators, and 11 million over-the-air.
By this account, all the efforts to make TV Everywhere are already being paid for upfront. The owners of the TV Everywhere initiatives -- TV content owners and their traditional video distributors -- say all this will come at no cost to the consumer.
Still, 11 million or so homes will suffer. Around half of those homes -- 5 million -- have broadband and will continue to scope the still-free areas of Hulu, YouTube and other places for a hodgepodge of premium video from those programmers who don’t want to entirely shut out potentially paying customers down the line.
But the big question is: Will this seemingly no-cost TV Everywhere price tag stay the same down the road? My guess: Nope. Once cable companies and others saturate their coffers from digital and voice service revenue in the coming years, they’ll need something else to boost earnings.
Cable operators and the rest will tell you TV Everywhere is an enhancement – that they want to give consumers more access to the programming that most are already paying for. That’s very philanthropic of them. Were they holding back stuff in the past?
Sure, if you weren’t already a subscriber to HBO or premium sports cable networks, you weren’t expecting to get that programming for free on digital platforms, were you?
Shifts in those existing subscription TV services look like this: In 2011, U.S. cable operators slipped 1.5%, going to 60.5 million subscribers; satellite providers were flat at 34.5 million; telecos rose 15%, landing at 8.5 million.
Right now, over-the-air TV homes are making some shifts in looking to use broadband as a complement -- but that’s from a small base. Broadcast-only homes with broadband homes grew 14% -- 631,000, to 5.1 million.
Still, this isn’t what would be called “scale” -- in other words, anything that would result in big media revenues. For that, focus on two numbers mentioned earlier – 98% and 90.4%. That will tell you much about current business intentions.