Cable television has been part of American culture for the better part of the last century. The first cable TV connection extended broadcast TV signals into mountainous regions of North America. Cable TV spread gradually over the years because of clarity of the signal and the additional channels that are offered for more content. The introduction of digital cable TV in the 1990s increased the carrying capacity of cable and as a result, more content could be carried.
By 2010, almost 60% of Americans subscribed to cable TV. However, since then, the number of new cable TV subscribers has been on a steady decline, in what has commonly been referred to as cord cutting. Cord cutting refers to the now common trend of opting out of cable TV and “cutting” your HDMI cables in favor of alternatives such as over-the-top broadcast via the internet.
Cord cutting has been a growing trend among viewers for the past four years, following the proliferation of internet-enabled devices and high-speed internet. One of the major reasons why cord cutting has been on the rise is the fact that cable TV offers many programs, but only a few of those are relevant to the most people unless one subscribes to premium cable content at an extra fee. Additionally, the younger generation is more likely to stream content from Netflix than members of the older generation who would prefer relaxing in front of their TV at the end of a tiring day.
Cord cutting presents several advantages that have enabled the trend to grow over the past few years. To begin with, cable alternatives are relatively cheaper than mainstream cable TV subscriptions. For instance, a monthly subscription to Netflix or Hulu Plus would cost somewhere in the region of $10. A cable subscription with the same package would be anywhere between five to ten times that amount. Secondly, while cable offers a lot of TV programs on its channels, one cannot choose the channels relevant to them within the packages. Internet TV, on the other hand, offers a myriad of options for the viewer. It gives the viewer the option to select channels that they want, which is what they pay for. Thirdly, cable TV draws a considerable amount of revenue from advertising. For this reason, normal TV programs are normally interrupted by advertisements in most cable TV networks. Alternatives like internet TV and over-the-air broadcasts have fewer frequencies of adverts and thus are more appealing to an increasing number of viewers.
Still, the cable TV industry holds a number of advantages over alternatives. Most internet TV and video providers lack streaming capabilities of live events such as sports and news. Stakeholders in the cable TV industry have invested heavily in broadcasting deals that offer coverage of live sporting events. Secondly, Internet and free-to-air broadcasters lack some of the channels that offer premium content. Live news analysis and informative programs offered by prominent cable TV networks such as CBS can only be found on the cable platform. Finally, the internet has its limitations that reduce the ability of viewers to reap maximum benefits from this platform. Variations in bandwidth for internet subscribers may negatively affect the experience of viewers, especially with high definition content that is more bulky.
Despite the single-digit percentage of cord cutters among American TV viewers, the decrease in cable TV subscriptions indicates imminent changes in the media industry. With a high percentage of internet-ready devices being sold every year, cable TV providers will reap the rewards of introducing streaming services to target the increasing number of viewers who are cord cutting. But streaming requires a lot of bandwidth and it costs money just like cable does. Plus, not everything is available to watch online. So while cord cutting may have advantages, it’s just as good if not better to keep your HDMI cable intact!