Commentary

PwC Study Shows Big Trouble For Cable, But Finds Viewers Overwhelmed

I am really going to get off this World Takeover By Online Video kick right after today, but sometimes the stats and connecting-the-dots are just too compelling.

Two new little factoids intrigue me.

The first: According to a tech company, Marchex, more than a quarter of customers who now call U.S. cable companies for service want “Internet only” and of those 60% get what they ask for, according to a story from Business Insider.com.

The second. Another new story about the death of cable is a new PwC report, “Feeling The Effects Of The Videoquake” (snappy!) that notes ominous declines among younger would-be subscribers to cable and big leaps in the number of people buying Netflix or Amazon Prime. And they’re not just young viewers. Netflix subscribers nearly doubled among adults 35-49 and nearly tripled for people between the ages of 50-59 in the last year. Getting young people to buy into new technology--big deal. Getting geezers to buy-in, in big, big numbers?  That’s alarming.

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But what it also points out is that even with people who subscribe to cable and to subscription services like Netflix, there’s far too much for them to absorb. In short, we’re buying far more content than we can ever use.

The report says: “The reality is this: While video content continues to get better, there are fewer people who have the necessary time available to consume it. In our focus groups, we heard again and again that although consumers are immensely enjoying the content available to them, they often find that it’s hard to keep up with all of the popular shows. 71% of consumers agreed with the statement, “The amount of TV content available is overwhelming,” and 61% agreed that “There are too many shows to watch, and not enough time to watch them.”

The report says 84% are now more selective about what to watch than in the past. In PwC’s way of explaining it, when viewers find something they like, they like it to death.  It quotes a piece of Netflix data from last year that says, of its top 10 shows, roughly half of the viewers it studied finished the whole series (up to 22 episodes) within a week. A lift-out graphic in the study quotes a “female 21-34” confiding,“I want to know what’s happening in the show, so I just sit there and the next thing I know, three hours have gone by.”

But maybe the wrong conclusion is being reached We have 1) people who say there’s far too much to choose but 2) when they find something they like they will binge-watch. So all this might be saying isn’t about loyalty or new ways people want to watch super-compelling content.
This just  may be how people settle the problem of too much choice.

In the days prior to remote control, networks depended on viewers to turn on at 8 p.m. and just stay there until they went to bed.

In a media universe of far too many options, the most expedient thing to do is eliminate almost all of the choices, and just eat (binge) on a few. Please, no substitutions!

So, we’re a pretty strange bunch, we humans. We want lots of choice but don’t want to choose. I wonder if the proliferation of storage facilities parallels the growth of content providers. More capacity--the average cable subscriber gets 190 channels-- and less of it useful--it’s just junk in the corner.The PwC study recommends: Curation, curation, curation.

But the part of the PwC report getting a lot of attention is that among younger people 18-24, the percentage with cable is now 71%, down from 77% the year before. When PwC asked all viewers if they would be cable subscribers in five years, 61% said yes. In ten years? Just 42%. And that’s the kind of attitude that makes it quite likely that most of the action at a cable switchboard these days is coming from callers who want Internet connections, but please, no cable.

pj@mediapost.com
1 comment about "PwC Study Shows Big Trouble For Cable, But Finds Viewers Overwhelmed".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, December 11, 2014 at 12:11 p.m.

    CBS Les Moovnes at the UBS conference basically said what me worry? Things are fabulous with growth in retransmission fees and ad revenue will pick up in 2015. Digital is eating someone else's pie not CBS. Why the disconnect with digital view posted above?

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