Next Generation Of Cable TV Networks Could Be Skinny Bundles

New types of cable-like TV networks for OTT services are coming from traditional TV network creators -- not only in restructuring older fringe cable networks, but developing new cable channels.

Traditional TV network groups -- NBCUniversal, Discovery, Viacom and others, with around a dozen or more channels each -- have worried about their fringe, smaller business networks in a future of “skinny” TV bundles.

Many network groups look to focus on just a handful of networks -- leaving others to fend for themselves. Viacom has already said it will be concentrating on six “core” network brands -- Nickelodeon, MTV, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, BET and the new Paramount Network.

But what about the other six to eight smaller-scale networks that big TV networks groups own? Does anyone believe those will make their way to new digital TV providers? These are services that consumers insist they will pay far less than the $100 a month or so for traditional pay TV providers.



Perhaps the answer is reinventing parts of those networks -- or culling programming pieces as the basis for new networks. CNN’s Great Big Story is one example of where stuff might be going.

Launched in October, Great Big Story quickly established itself online -- on Facebook and other social media -- producing three to five videos a day, short three- to-five-minute-long videos. It also wants to do longer-form TV stuff (like regular half-hour and hour TV shows?) as well theatrical releases. The network describes its goal as “cinematic storytelling.”

Its goal is to be a new kind of TV network. That would include operations on live, linear TV networks and OTT providers, such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, or PlayStation Vue.

Great Big Story -- as perhaps Vice Media has done with Viceland -- wants to have a foot in the traditional TV cable network arena, with the other in new digital platforms.

Does that play better for traditional TV marketers? Given all this, big traditional TV network groups might need to think differently about their future.

5 comments about "Next Generation Of Cable TV Networks Could Be Skinny Bundles".
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  1. Richard Reisman from Teleshuttle Corporation, June 23, 2017 at 6:28 p.m.

    The real problem is obsolete channel-based models. What sense does it make to choose ahead of time what channels I will watch in a given month -- especialy long-tail channels that one rarely watches? 

    Agregators could let viewers select a special “post-bundled” plan that offers “run of house” access to all programming, and then applies bundled package rate discounts to that month’s viewing – after the household has made its choices, program by program. Prices and costs should correspond to viewing.

    This is essentially an a la carte plan that adds package discounts. Apply quantity discounts, comparable to current bundling discounts, but in a way that lets viewers choose what to watch with a minimum of constraints. Bundle it after the fact – neither fat or skinny, but just right.

    This can give viewers full choice and eliminate perverse economics. It would make long tail channel content profitable and make the service appealing to far more viewers. (More at

  2. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, June 24, 2017 at 8:50 a.m.

    Can skinny bundles, in the long run, remain robust without news channels?

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 25, 2017 at 8:05 p.m.

    The problem that consumers who think that they are in command and can pick and choose whatever channels they "buy" annytime they wish, is that if the various bundles now being offered,succeed they will greatly reduce the number of optuions that are readily available. The broadcast networks and their affiliates, O&O stations and owned cable channels are being offered in combination by Hulu, YouTube and others, which effectively pre-empts other players---like Discovery, Turner and Viacom---so they and some others are offering their own little bundles and this will also be a pattern for the cable system owners. When all of the dust settles, it is likely that many of the "long tail" and more selectively programmed basic cable services will disappear ----or be bought up by the biggies.

  4. Richard Reisman from Teleshuttle Corporation replied, June 26, 2017 at 12:45 a.m.

    Yes, right now it is a legacy channel-based game that no longer works. Post-bundling would let niche channels find their niche. But the ecosystem must change its practices to permit that.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, June 26, 2017 at 9:31 a.m.

    Richard, I'm not so sure that the "legacy channel game", as you put it is no longer workable. I think that "we" make the mistake of thinking that most consumers are like "us" in their tastes in TV/video content as well as the amounts of it they want to ---or need to---soak up. I agree that, for a certain somewhat disaffected segment, alternatives like Netflix, seem like a real improvement over the same old menu of primetime slop dished out by the broadcast TV networks. However, such fare amounts to a small part of the average person's TV/video diet---not even 10% of it---and the plain fact seems to be that great masses of viewers are perfectly OK with daytime talk shows, Judge Judy -type "courtroom" formats, game shows, celebrity gossip entries,  off-network reruns, old movies, low budget documentaries, "Real Housewives of Podunk" and young realator dudes shows, to say nothing of sports and news content. So, while legacy primetime's dramas and sitcoms, plus reality fare, have lost much of their luster for more discriminating, light viewers like "us", there are millions of folks out there who will opt for the likes of a "Jerry Springer Show". Which is why, I believe, that legacy TV, with its overwhemling supply of pap content---plus some stuff that we actually want-----will do just fine for the foreseeable future, even if new business models--- like streaming subscription incomes--- are added to the mix, along with retransmission fees and profit sharing deals with program producers.

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