Pay TV Providers, Consumers Consider Future Needs

Consumers increasingly have big entertainment decisions to make when it comes to streaming platforms and legacy pay TV systems: What to keep? What to let go?

Considering the declining subscribers of pay TV providers over the past several years, we know one item that's on the let-go checklist. But where does this leave virtual pay TV providers, such as Sling TV, AT&T TV Now, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV?

Virtual pay TV providers -- insert the word digital when you like -- were to be the modern replacement for traditional/legacy pay TV providers -- cheaper, perhaps more flexible TV network choices, as well as more user options.

But much of this isn’t working. These new providers work on razor-thin profit margins. How long can they last?

We see how cable/communications companies that control some of these services are thinking about them, marketing-wise.

Sling TV, for example, perhaps the largest virtual pay TV provider, generated 20% fewer TV ad impressions -- 4.9 billion, according to -- for its national TV advertising effort from January 1 through December 6.

AT&T TV, a new more traditional pay TV provider, was at 2.8 billion impressions in 2020.

Those two services were the only streaming platforms of all types: VOD, live/linear TV networks, ad-supported, ad-free or otherwise -- placed in the top 20 of companies when it comes to national TV marketing.

All this comes as new types of TV/video distributors of entertainment app/services -- Roku and Amazon Fire TV -- keep growing in terms of monthly active users.

Consumers might wonder what they need in a modern TV package. Perhaps a handful of over-the-air channels (local, national, or otherwise) to bring live news and sports, and then another three-to-four premium on-demand services -- Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock, the forthcoming Paramount+, and maybe the nonfiction-focused discovery+.

Traditional TV consumers may believe having a huge number of channels, 200 to 300 or so -- watched or not -- provides comfort when it comes to choice.

In that regard, Comcast’s Xfinity and Flex TV have been taking on a more hybrid approach for some time -- offering traditional live/linear TV networks and modern streaming apps.

For example, Comcast now has HBO Max for carriage, added to Netflix, Peacock, Hulu, Prime Video, YouTube, and other VOD apps. Other cable-centric and pay TV platforms have done the same.

Even then, consumers overall continue to be active cord-cutters of traditional pay TV distributors. The TV ecosystem is changing for sure. More importantly, what remains?

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