Before there was streaming, there was cable

It’s really obvious to trace the disruption of the media industry to Netflix and similar streaming services. Everything was perfectly fine before that, right? It is so easy to ignore the fact that disruption began long before Netflix became mainstream; it began with the growth of cable television.

First, let’s clarify the distinction between broadcast television and cable television. Broadcast television consists of NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and to an extent, CW. These channels have the largest reach in terms of viewing households, the standard by which reach is measured for television. It is also a very diverse audience that watches, they are measured in terms of the number of adults between the ages of 18-49 watching a program. In terms of how an advertiser chooses to spend their dollars, broadcast channels are sort of a necessity, but may not always be the most efficient use of money. These commercial spots are often tens of thousands of dollars each, if not more.

Cable television however is much more niche in their viewer composition and in the type of programming they offer. Cable TV allows advertisers to reach a more targeted market due to the nature of their programming. The viewers of these channels can be guaranteed on bases such as women between the ages of 25-49 or men between the ages of 18-34.

In addition to allowing advertisers to spend their more dollars more efficiently in targeting, the cost per commercial spot on cable television is significantly cheaper than its broadcast counterparts. So while the reach of cable television may not be as great, it a lot cheaper and a lot more efficient in terms of advertising spend.

There are hundreds of cable channels available to viewers; and because of this, viewers have hundreds of options when it comes to choosing what to watch. The increase in available cable channels has fragmented viewers and ratings alike. There is an ongoing competition between the networks to put out the best programming to attract viewers to their network. There is a big push for fresh, new programming every new season, and this has led to more failed freshmen series for each network. It is rare for a TV series to achieve lasting success in such a competitive landscape.

4 thoughts on “Before there was streaming, there was cable

  1. Justin Amelio

    This article was interesting to me because I agree with the author not enough people appreciate table and broadcast television. People do not watch TV as often as they used to because of all of the online streaming apps that exist. Although all of these apps are very convenient nothing beats watching cable television. Cable offers al of the important types of TV that people want to watch such as sports, entertainment and news. In my house I have a cable box that has over 800 channels to choose from and I watch it frequently when I am home from school. Cable also has movies available to watch on demand which makes it similar to apps like Netflix. The cable box is awesome because of how many different options you have to watch but nothing compares to Netflix and Amazon prime. On both of these apps movies and TV shows can be accessed instantly and there seems to be an endless selection.

    Both of these apps update their selection every month or every couple of weeks or so which makes it very versatile. The options range from horror movies to documentaries to children shows. I am not sure if amazon prime does this but with Netflix you can order a movie that is not available online or on the app to be delivered to your house. When you are done watching it you can send it back and get another movie or TV show whichever one you chose to order. You can have up to 3 different TV shows or movies at the same time come in the mail. This is how Netflix used to operate a couple of years ago before watching movies online became a thing. I think that Cable is going to have to do something in order to step up their game because it is hard to keep up with Netflix. The membership for Netflix is cheap as well it is only $8 a month and I’m pretty sure that you get the first two months free. Netflix is only going to continue to thrive in the future and cable is going to dwindle but cable will always be around.

  2. Themba Lungu

    Streaming services have seen a significant boom in popularity. Netflix is the pioneer of these services that also include Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others. Cable viewership has seen a slight drop in audience and it is very understandable. It is easier to stream your favorite shows or movies at your own time and pace rather than watching a weekly program at a designated time. In addition, streaming has given viewers the opportunity to watch as many episodes as the feel satisfied rather than watching one episode a week. This is what is now refer to as “binging”. Cable services are adapting to the new times that we live in. Comcast/Xfinity is launching there own streaming services which offers the same content that they provide on cable. Premium channels such as HBO and Starz, which need a prescription to watch on cable, are also starting their own streaming services with their own exclusive content such as Game of Thrones and True Blood. The disruption of cable viewership can be traced to the streaming services but, according to the article, apparently it is the diversity of the channels that caused this disruption. There are many streaming services out now and it is continuously growing. But there are even more channels on cable TV, hundreds in fact. The multitude of options that viewers have disrupt the viewership and ratings of these channels. This disruption along with the disruption that streaming services cause has resulted in reduced views and ratings of some of the cable networks. The title is appropriate. Initially I thought the article was talking about the trend shifting from cable TV to streaming services. However, the title references that before streaming services disrupted cable TV, cable TV disrupted cable TV.

  3. Joseph Belli

    I would say that everything about cable television is absolutely outdated. The new series that are being introduced are incredibly cliché and not relatable on so many levels. That being said, all television worth watching is no longer displayed on cable television, but on the variety of streaming services at our disposal. Classic shows like The Sopranos, Friends, and The Office are all shows that are accessible through streaming, therefore immediately eliminating the need for cable if you wanted to watch them. Something that makes streaming better than cable is its availability. Services like HBOGO, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video are all available on multiple platforms including playstation, smart tv, google chromecast, apple tv, and all other streaming devices, which makes it easier to watch at any time. Another positive aspect of Streaming services is the quality of the original series’ they release annually. The shows produced by HBO and Neflix are very original and in most cases very humorous. Something that is to be interpreted by the viewer as useful is how they upload an entire season at once on Netflix, allowing the user to binge watch the season as they please. I am not a fan of this feature because it tempts me to watch the whole season, thus leaving me with nothing else at the end of the two or three days I spent watching it. HBO does it the best, in my opinion. They release a new episode of a series every week, live on television. The following morning, the new episode is available to stream on one of their streaming services like HBOGO. They do not allow you to watch the whole new season of a show, and that is one of the main reasons why they have such a large and loyal customer base. Also, they just recently released HBONOW: an additional service that allows you to stream live shows and movies, should you be willing to pay the extra fee.

    Overall, streaming services are singlehandedly ruling the television industry. They are allowing users to watch shows when they please at their convenience, rather than whenever the producer decides to display them. Streaming will eventually take over television in my opinion.

  4. Andrew Lentini

    Online streaming is now running the internet legal or illegal it does not matter. A recent study found that 30% of Americans subscribe to 1 video services. Unlicensed TV shows are easy to find on google and are illegal but the government does not do much to stop it. For new TV shows they are taking a long time to start up and mostly new shows get canceled in the first year. Netflix and Amazon video however are doing very well seeing their subscriptions increase. Netflix and Amazon video have done a very smart thing and created their own TV shows. Their original series have been nominated for 46 Emmy’s this year alone. Success comes from views. After you rate shows they know what the American people like and try to make shows that everyone will want to watch. This is where TV is headed but this is definitely not where it started. As a college student I am exposed to Netflix all the time because that is what everyone watches. I did not watch Netflix until I came to college to the surprise of many people. People would always ask me what I watched instead since I did not watch Netflix and I would look at them all confused. We live in times where people do everything on the internet whether on your phone or on your computer. Like all other Americans I used to watch cable television. Luckily for me cable television has been around my whole life unlike for my parents who only has broadcast TV. Broadcast TV is the basic channels that you can get if you have an antenna. These channels include NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX. Personally I think these are and forever will be the best channels out there. They have a wide range of programs that are scheduled at perfect times. My favorite is on Sundays when FOX, NBC, and CBS all show NFL football games. I love football and nothing is better than eating some wings watching football. ABC which also owns ESPN has their big football day on Saturdays when they show college football. College football generates millions of dollars for the TV networks because of their high level of competition and also that they play on Saturdays. Ads have a big effect on how much money these companies make. Other companies will spend millions of dollars just to have a 30 second ad posted on the TV. We see this the most during the super bowl. The super bowl has shown that TV ads will work with the creativity of business. With advertising on cable TV it is easier for companies to target their market. They can know the demographics of the viewers of the show and see if that is the audience they want to target. Once they pinpoint who they want to advertise too they take their creative commercial and put it on the air. When im watching TV I see the same commercials over and over and to be honest these grab my attention. When you see something over and over your brain realizes it and makes you think of it.


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