God bless early adopters. They pay the huge prices for items the rest of us aren’t so sure we need or want. The color TV! PCs and iPads. Cell phones the size of a loaf of bread! Their early confidence or just sheer excess cash made life better, or at least damn different. Out with the new. In with the newer!
Which brings us to over the top content providers. There are so many of them that you can make yourself silly trying to remember why one of them might be better than the other. As a recent report from Parks Associates points out, this might be a long search for entertainment nirvana.
In July, it noted that half of Hulu’s customers canceled the service the month before and that 9% of Netflix’s customers scrammed, too. Smaller services lose customers at Blackberry-like rates.
Oddly named NScreenMedia.com argued, a little, that disconnecting from OTT services isn't like disconnecting from cable or satellite TV. Those services spend a ton just to get you to hook up, while Netflix and the others aren’t out much because you can sign on again just as easily as you left. In the case of Roku or Amazon or Apple, you own the set-top box, not them, so if you leave, the pain is largely your own.
Now, Verizon’s Go90 is coming along, with its mobile-first service, which will make device-o-vision even more ubiquitous, if you’ll excuse that phrase. A couple decades ago, the prospect of TV Everywhere would be considered a curse. Now it’s a goal and we’re getting close to our Mission Accomplished moment.
But all of that begins to make things Not All That. As cable’s universe grew, cable’s flotsam and jetsam increased to the point that subscribers may get 189 channels, but only watch something like 17.5, according to Nielsen. Online video might be overhyped before it even matures.
With cable, you can’t quit if you want television, essentially. But with OTT, that’s possible, and maybe, not threatening.
Or it is. Hulu paid $180 million for rights to “Seinfeld,” with the idea of attracting monthly customers or advertisers or both. Netflix said last year it was committed to spending $6 billion on content between then and 2017. Disconnects upsets that game plan; when it didn’t renew its film contract with Epix last month, basically a cost-containment decision, its shares plummeted on the news.
That does seem to be online’s problem. Now that the business is producing more premium content to watch, it may find it’s too easy to cherry pick.