Cable TV Isn’t Dead or Dying, Yet The Media Is Obsessed In Saying It Is

If you have read my blog long enough you probably know by now that I absolutely hate it when the media sets wrong expectations in the industry. First it was their notion that ISP caps would kill the online video industry, yet that didn't happen. Then it was the promise of TV everywhere being some kind of new monetization platform, yet so far, almost no TV everywhere services even exist. Next up was the idea that cord cutting was a big trend about to disrupt the cable TV providers, but as we have seen, that's had no impact on the market and MSO's are still making a lot of money and not losing a lot of subscribers. Yet even with all of these hard facts and figures in the market, it still does not stop a large portion of the media from writing post after post about how the cable industry is getting their butt kicked. In reality, most of these blogs are simply picking headlines that sound good, but offer nothing in the way of evidence to back it up and many of the authors of these posts are completely out of touch with reality.

The latest article on the "cable is dead or dying" topic appears on Venture Beat entitled "How Roku is kicking the cable industry’s butt & where it’s going next [exclusive]". The first problem with the article is that there is nothing "exclusive" about it. The information Roku's CEO gave out and what he's quoted as saying in the article is the same info he has given out to many members of the media. There is nothing "exclusive" about what is reported or what is said, yet many bloggers seem to put the word "exclusive" in their post simply as bait. I think many bloggers spend more time crafting the title to their post than the actual post itself (Updated: Here's another article that just came out in the last hour entitled "TV Everywhere: How the Internet is Killing Cable". Useless drivel)

No where in the article does the author compare the numbers of cable TV subscribers to Roku's install base. While it says that Roku has sold 2.5M boxes to date (note that's boxes, not unique users) and "expects to sell 19 million boxes over the next three to four years", those numbers mean nothing unless you compare it to the cable TV install base, which is over 100M in North America today. And while it's nice to see it reported that Roku did $100M in revenue for last year, that pales in comparison to just one MSO like Comcast who generates more than $1B in profit each quarter. While I personally like Roku and think it's the best $99 box on the market, it's not kicking cables butt. In fact, Roku's CEO even says that Roku is a compliment to cable TV, not a replacement, yet the author of the post still tries to imply that Roku is replacing cable TV.

When Apple came out with the first Apple TV model, the media said it would kill off DVDs. That's didn't happen so when Apple came out with Apple TV 2, the media then said it would be different this time as this model was only $99. To date, Apple has sold less than 5M devices and it has not had any impact on the overall advancement of the market or disrupted any competitors. Yet, now the media wants to talk about how an all-in-one Apple TV will "disrupt" the market, because they want to imply that the current way of doing things is outdated or dead. Cable TV is not dying.

While this latest Venture Beat article is the one I am using as an example of my point, there are many like it. Each week I read members of the media saying things like, "cord cutting is now a reality", "cable companies are antiquated", or they imply that any service that comes to the market is a "Netflix killer". In the real-world, none of this could be further from the truth and it is clear that most of the authors writing these posts don't even use these devices, services and platforms they are writing about. You almost never ever see them give out any numbers in the post either, saying just how many cable TV subscribers there are. When the media was all frenzied about the number of cable TV subscribers MSOs lost last year, especially in one quarter, I didn't read a single article that put those numbers in context. They are quick to put in the title of their post numbers in the hundreds of thousands, because it sounds big, but put that into context of the total number of cable subscribers and those numbers were less than 1% of the total market. But of course, saying less than 1% in the title of the post would not be dramatic enough, so they leave that out from the title and the post.

As I have complained about before, too many blogs don't want to tell a story or include complete data and do their research. They simply want to write as many 700 word posts as they can in one day, with explosive titles to bait readers and then move on to the next "hot" topic. Case in point. Just think about how many blog posts you have seen about the all-in-one Apple TV. Post after post from people "speculating" what it will, won't or could do when it is released. How many sites need to say the exact same thing over and over again, yet add absolutely nothing to the discussion, about a product that DOES NOT EVEN EXIST. We've been reading posts about this with predictions for three years now. That's not news.

Why are members of the media so adamant in trying to convince others of things that are not happening? Why are they so insistent on trying to push their views on others? That's not their job. Any good blogger should know that their job is to provide data on what is really happening in the market, give readers the full picture and then let them make their decision on what it means for the industry. While there is nothing wrong with any blogger saying what they think it means, or giving their opinion, they have to back it up with reasoning. Simply saying cable TV is dead because I say it is, even in the face of all the data that shows otherwise, is not responsible.

This problem with the media is never going to go away because many authors are paid and given a financial incentive to push quantity over quality. And that's why, in most cases, some of the best authors and blogs on the web that cover this industry are from those who aren't motivated by money and aren't operating a blog to push page views. So for all the bloggers out there saying that, "cord cutting is now a reality" or "the cable TV model is dead", you're not living in the real-world. Yes, many of you can write more eloquently than me or have a journalism background, but you are not eating, sleeping and breathing these technologies and it shows. In most cases, you have never even used the product you are writing about. You are doing a dis-service to your readers and more importantly, to the industry. But since most don't care about the industry and don't feel any responsibility to it, they keep writing posts that push hype and fantasy over reality.

If I sound bitter, I am. Myself and many others actually care about this industry and for those who were around in the 2000 time frame, we saw our industry die due to all the wrong expectations set by members of the media and vendors in the market. Projections for products and services in the market were set that could not be met under any circumstances. It was a ticking time bomb. This is very dangerous and setting false expectations, that are then realized as being false, stops the advancement of the entire market. So when bloggers want to imply or insist that one service is replacing another or putting someone or something out of business, when in reality it's not, it changes people's perception of what's actually taking place. And many times, perception can quickly become reality and that's never good.

I wish it was a requirement that any blogger writing about a consumer service, product or device should be required to have to use the product or service, at length, before they could write about it. I do many interviews with members of the media and I am always amazed at how many are writing about services, even something like Netflix, that they then say they have never even used before. It shows.

Hyping any aspect of this industry when it's not actually taking place and wrong expectations get set. And when that happens, VCs invest money into companies who won't survive, companies change the focus of their business based on misguided data and the value of the products and services in the industry get inflated beyond reality. We've had this problem as an industry in the past and when you set wrong expectations with consumers, the end result is even worse.

Don't let the hype in this industry become the metrics for how we judge true success in the market.

For those that I know are going to want to argue with me on this, feel free to, but debate the facts of what's really taking place in the market, because reality, not percetpion is all that matters. Look at ALL of the numbers and don't cherry pick pieces of the data that don't tell the full story. You have to separate facts from opinions.


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