Anorexic Digital TV Bundles: Is Netflix The Real Target

We now get a clearer picture of what those $10-a-month real-skinny TV bundles for a handful of networks are about: getting on the same competitive price level as Netflix.

But wait you say: Netflix isn’t a digital pay TV bundle of linear TV networks. Yep, but consumers aren’t looking at TV networks that way any longer. It’s all about programs. It's less about live, linear TV... anything.

Speaking at the Bernstein Conference on Wednesday, David Zaslav, president/CEO of Discovery Communications, didn’t believe the currently proposed $40 a month packages from a number of players could compete in the world of digital media. Especially when, in addition to cost, there can also be a $30 to $40 a month broadband fee.

Zaslav remarks followed similar talk from Bob Bakish, president/CEO of Viacom, touting ultra-skinny TV bundles -- consisting of maybe 10 or so non-sports networks costing around $8 to $12 a month.



This also happens to be in the price range of what digital TV consumers pay per month for Netflix -- or Amazon or Hulu.

Discovery and Viacom are similar TV network groups in this regard. Both have over a dozen networks, many of which might not have a future in a world of skinny TV network packages sold digitally. It should be said that it isn’t only Discovery and Viacom; other groups as well could be danger with marginal TV channels.

Talk of even skinner TV bundles may give TV networks groups a chance to be part of specific lower-price niches of pay TV bundles, which could include mid-tier cable networks.

Recent Nielsen research from Pivotal Research Group shows in addition high-profile networks such as ESPN losing subscribers -- around 3.8% for the month of June -- many mid-level networks have lost even more ground.

Viacom’s CMT sank 9.6%; its MTV Class, lost 8.0%; and Viacom’s Spike sinking 6.6%. Discovery’s Destination America lost 8.7%; Discovery Family Channel, gave back 8.4%; American Heroes, losing 7.4%; and Science, off 6.7%.

Can any of these networks form a virtual pay TV bundle -- and get traction? Better still: Should Netflix be worried?

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