So You’ve Cut the Cord, but the Game is on…

It’s not like it used to be. Kids no longer wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. Cable television eventually took that tradition and made it into a 24 hour affair of cartoons… otherwise known as the new baby sitter. Then there was the almighty invention of the 24 hour sports network known as ESPN. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. I’ll take being able to watch my favorite college football team every weekend, and being able to record Looney Tunes over being told I have to wake up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays just to find out if it’s duck season or wabbit season.

However, there comes a point when too much is too much, and I’m not talking about a plethora of 24 sports channels. I use to have 150 channels that I paid for a month even though I only watched less than 10 of them. The problem is I was paying for too many channels that I didn’t even want, or even know why they exist. Did you know that The Puppy Channel was a thing? Either way the costs are too much so I cut the cord, and I felt liberated… until football season.

I could go to the local bar, but that is actually more expensive that the cable bill. Online subscription serves don’t show live sports so I bought an HD antennae. I didn’t expect to get too many channels, but the HD quality is pretty good, which was a pleasant surprise. I was able to watch Ohio State (unfortunately they won), and the Atlanta Falcons take care of the Eagles. Then I rediscovered Sling TV. I don’t remember them having the ESPN lineup last time I checked. I have live local television, many day-after primetime television shows, and the ESPN line up for under $40! That’s great for me, but not so much for the broadcast networks, cable/satellite companies, and most of the cable networks. I know I’m saving a good bit of money, but what does this mean for the networks?

There are too many entities to tackle here at once, so I’ll start with the cable networks. First off, The Puppy Channel is safe… from ever being watched. However, cable networks like ESPN are still getting revenue from companies like Sling TV that redistribute their content. In addition to this, they are also using this format for ESPN commercials. Some of the other cable networks on Sling TV have commercials that include the typical commercials you’d find any normal television channel, but at the moment I’m not sure if these commercial are provided by the cable networks, Sling TV, or a combination of the two. The cable networks seem to have found another way to stay on top of the trend to cut the cable and still earn revenue. The trick is to provide content people are willing to pay for, or at a minimum, have an anchor channel like ESPN in tow.

This brings us to the cable/satellite companies. Some companies like Dish accept in some sense that things are changing, or at the very least, they are taking steps to re-capture the margin that has cut the cable as well as millennials that don’t plan to get cable. Then there are companies like Comcast that want to be the only kid at the big kids table that can play with the new toy (online streaming). These are just a couple of the players, but things are definitely going to continue to be shaken up.

Lastly, there are the broadcast networks that are facing competition on two fronts. I’ve already mentioned Sling TV, but there is also HULU and Netflix. However, they are just re-capturing the lost margin by selling their content to these other providers. The real trouble is someone is stealing their free lunch. They say that there is no such thing as a free lunch, so of course the broadcast networks would be mad that companies like Aereo are stealing something that is both free and non-existence. Got it? Neither do, so I’ll try and break it down. The “free” component is the airwaves that they use to broadcast their television signals. The U.S. government actually owns the airwaves, but allows the broadcasters tom use them free of charge to provide useful content and information to everyone within reach of the signals for free as well.

There’s more to the use national airwaves, but that pretty much sums up how it works. The broadcasters are complaining because Aereo is redistributing these airwaves for a fee to its subscribers. This complaint has already been taken to court, however Aereo won the case. I don’t agree with that verdict, but I can see how Aereo isn’t taking profit away from broadcasters unless they are putting in their own commercials in lieu of the broadcasters commercials. Nonetheless, some national broadcasters are contemplating about becoming cable channels. I don’t know what will come of things if that happens. The affiliates of these national broadcasters, such as ABC’s Atlanta affiliate WSB, will still exist. It’s too early to even know if they’ll still receive content from the national broadcasters; especially if the broadcasters are providing it on their cable channels.

Perhaps the national broadcasters and regional broadcasters will be the next victim of the internet. There aren’t too many newspapers left today, but at least they are somewhat still kicking the can down the road. If the national broadcasters do leave the regional broadcaster high and dry then they will have to come up with an answer on how to survive. They could take a cue from HULU and Netflix and produce their own content. That would be a risky and expensive endeavor. If it works we could have a regional renaissance of local acting talent, or worse… we could end up with a reality television show about what’s happening in the local watering hole.

At the end of the day there are many outcomes that are possible, but it’s all speculative in regards to where the dominos will fall. At least we can still watch the game.


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