Traditional public battles between big cable-centric network companies and pay TV providers will have a new story arc in the coming years.
Viacom is now battling Charter Communications, the second-biggest U.S. cable operator, over a renewal carriage deal of Viacom's 23 networks on the pay TV provider.
This would seem like an old industry story: Lots of barbs traded back and forth between companies, and then a deadline comes. Perhaps a day or two of blackouts, and some TV ads pushing consumers to complain to the powers that be. All to be resolved a short time later.
Until the next thing comes along.
But what if future legacy deals between established pay TV providers and traditional cable-networks just never resolved themselves? TV limbo.
This is part of the reason that Viacom, Discovery Communications and other cable-only network groups are continuing to look at direct-to-consumer digital platforms/packages for their future growth and stability.
Here's the rub: New, low-cost digital live TV network services -- DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV -- need to cut somewhere. They look to weed out mid-level or lower-level interest cable networks. Companies like Viacom and Discovery have some of these.
This is why such companies are looking to start up TV packages of their own -- billed as “non-sports” packages, perhaps at a low $10-a-month price.
This kind of package would be far less than the $35-to-$50 range that DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV have launched with -- and they have big broadcast networks and their associated cable networks on board.
Media content looks to leverage many TV network brands against pay TV providers for greater carriage fees. Ultimately, this can be passed on to TV consumers.
Here is Viacom's leverage: 23 networks comprising 15% to 20% of all cable network viewing.
But what if TV consumers could choose a network at a time -- per month, per week, per day? They could buy 200 to 300 channels on an a la carte basis -- perhaps each with their own app for a price tag of 25 cents to 50 cents a month.
We know one thing: That would upset cable network groups' business model in a major way. And we haven't even talked about what this means for cable TV network advertisers.
What would the TV world look like then?