According to Bloomberg this morning, cable companies are finally eating their respective hats, and starting to engage with those bastions of on-demand TV, Netflix and Hulu. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” seems to be the collective rallying cry.
Cable operators Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. are allegedly in talks with Hulu about offering the company’s on-demand services via set-top box.
The largest of the two, Comcast, offers Netflix, YouTube and Sling TV through its X1 service, which allows subscribers to find movies and shows by a voice-activated search. But if it goes the next step and offers Hulu’s catalog to the nation’s couch potatoes as well, Comcast will be a significant step closer to its aim of becoming a one-stop shop for digital video entertainment.
Executive vice president at Comcast, Matt Strauss, said in September, “To customer, these are just choices and you shouldn’t have to switch inputs or figure out how to get to that choice.”
Unverified sources suggest that Charter is planning to add Netflix to its portfolio, while Altice, which offers YouTube and Pandora on its Altice One cable system, is in already in discussions with the streaming giant. Comcast is also testing an app that will allow subscribers to access cable via Roku’s set-top boxes. While streaming services had once been perceived to pose an existential threat to Pay TV companies, those worries are now clearly being undone by a need for them to stay relevant in the marketplace.
Not surprisingly, today’s TV hounds are treating their flat-panels more like large tablets or phones, ascribing no loyalty to the providers, but rather accessing their preferred programming from grid listings of hundreds of channels. The web-savvy, or those inclined to cut the cord – which presumably makes up the bulk of us – are more likely to be retained by the cable operators as loyal customers in these new scenarios.
“The pain of switching between inputs, trying to download apps, or going app by app to search for content will no longer be friction points,” says Barclays analyst, Kannan Venkateshwar.
With cable TV operators still hemorrhaging customers at an alarming rate (Comcast losing 125,000 alone last quarter, and Stamford shedding 104,000), clearly there is a need for cool, but fast action. With Netflix charging between $7.99 and $13.99 per month, compared to a typical $85 per month for cable, what’s there to argue with?
Is this music to your ears, and couldn’t come sooner? Have you cut the cord? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.