Entertainment industry insiders have been watching nervously as the number of people paying for television programing has slowly declined. Cable and satellite subscriptions, once thought to be an endless source of revenue, have tanked. And now it seems these same people who are abandoning traditional television are also ditching their TV sets.
“After years of steady increases, the number of TVs in homes shrank to an average of 2.3 in 2015,” Recode reports, “down from an average of 2.6 televisions per household in 2009.” Their information comes from the Energy Information Administration.
Hollywood has a history of rapid reinvention. The early days of film were dismissed as a novelty. Nothing could ever dethrone radio. And then the addition of a soundtrack to a film, allowing the actors to talk, was seen as a fad that couldn’t possibly compete with the silent movie.
The same trends of boom and bust can be seen in many aspects of the industry. Networks caved under the pressure from cable. Cable has been decimated by the internet’s data delivery options, and computer screens and tablets are now the delivery method of choice.
There are two anchors that are propping up the status quo. Live sports and news. Yet even these are under threat. And so Americans are ditching the old school sets. It is no coincidence that monitors are getting bigger. Still, there is a lingering question underlying the shift: how will they pay for programming?
Netflix, HBO, Amazon, and others are using subscription models to fund their delivery. The trend is working. Hollywood is seeing major development funding shift away from the big studios and into the pockets of these media upstarts.
How long will subscribers be willing to pay for their content? There seems to be no good answer to this question. Ironically, the security these firms feel now is reminiscent of Cable’s position in the 1990’s. But cable still offered programing with commercial breaks, and that satisfied advertisers.
In the age of internet metrics, where every moment of our attention span is tracked, advertisers are struggling to find ways to spin their products. How do you slip product placements into Game of Thrones? And what will viewers do when they get bored? Channel surfing on cable meant you were still watching cable. The internet equivalent is a completely different animal. Time to watch some cat videos on YouTube.