Commentary

Yes, The Super Bowl Will Be On Cable Next Year - But It Already Is

It can be complicated to compare subscriber numbers of traditional TV services to new premium digital TV services.

Take HBO, Showtime and Netflix. HBO has some 28 million subscribers, Showtime 22 million and Netfix 31 million. All three say they continue to grow.

But a recent NPD Group survey showed a rise in subscription video on demand subscribers (SVOD) services like Netflix concurrent with a decline in subscribers for traditional pay TV channels like HBO and Showtime.

Actual viewership? Overall research shows traditional TV is still growing, albeit slowly. Digital video? Business is growing overall, though it’s still a speck on the landscape in terms of share of overall viewing time.

Premium digital video? Harder to tell, especially considering Netflix’s reticence in disclosing viewership numbers for its originals like “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black.”

Much common wisdom suggests that traditional TV growth will eventually give way to more rapidly increasing digital video growth.

But media proclamations have been wrong in the past. Remember the prediction that 80%-90% of U.S TV homes would have DVRs by now?  (The figure is currently under 50%).

Moving to a slightly different, if related topic: Decades ago, Bill Daniels, one of the founding fathers of the cable industry, mused on the certainty that the Super Bowl would eventually be “on cable.” He wasn’t looking at the obvious -- the Super Bowl has actually been on cable (or satellite or telco) for years, because the telecasts of the game on CBS, Fox or NBC are seen by viewers through Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, etc.

Also consider that these days many broadcast networks act like cable networks by demanding higher “subscriber” (retransmission) fees from pay TV providers. More recently, some have threatened to become full cable networks if services like Aereo get their way.

But are consumers replacing traditional premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz with Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime?  That connection hasn’t been revealed. Is it possible both categories of TV services are up?

One thing is for sure: The Super Bowl will be on cable next year -- as well as on TV.

2 comments about "Yes, The Super Bowl Will Be On Cable Next Year - But It Already Is".
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  1. Robynne Wildman from Standing With Agnes Nixon, January 21, 2014 at 3 p.m.

    I got rid of cable and have Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus subscriptions.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 21, 2014 at 4:15 p.m.

    I've been closely studying DVR articles for over a decade and I never saw anyone redible projecting 80-90 percent DVR penetration. I think it would be higher than 50 percent had streaming solutions like Netflix not come along. Or lower than 50 percent had DVRs not been bundled with satellite. It's all conjecture at this point, but no one is projecting a rosy future for the broadcast networks, are they?

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