The Confusion of Cord Cutting

TV providers and mainstream media finally realizing that “cord cutting”, is beyond a point which they can deny its prevalence. Millions of people around the world are moving from the monopolized offering of traditional TV providers which are often too expensive and slow at modernizing, to streaming services.

Traditional TV in respective countries or regions mostly follows a standardized protocol. This means that users can standardize their own hardware and media setup for consistent access to content. It also means that when distributors place unnecessary restrictions on accessing content there are many people facing the same restrictions, making it easier to find someone with a work-around.

Of the bigger players currently in the media streaming field, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, none of them are using the same technology, encryption, or streaming method to distribute their content. Each thinks they can do a better job than their competition. This can be seen across basically every existing streaming site, where a user needs the right browser, with the right user agent, and the right plugins to be able to access the content. With each new entrant bringing with them a new method of streaming the market becomes an enormously complex, convoluted, and uncoordinated ecosystem. Another consideration is mobile and home theatre streaming. Traditional cable set-top boxes are incapable of streaming these forms of online media. Devices like Roku boxes, Apple TV, and Kodi will all require each streaming site to make their own app or plugin for each platform. This also applies to mobile streaming where apps for each of these sites will be required for each operating system.

Beyond the uncertainty surrounding the technology needed to access the streaming content, there needs to be a consideration for the content that one intends to stream. Despite the many disadvantages of traditional cable TV it does offer users all possible content available in their region. For a steep price. Without the monopoly offered by cable content owners (who are unfortunately often the content providers) are unwilling to licence out their shows to their direct competition. As the content itself is the selling point, each content owner leverage’s their contents popularity as the focal point of their own streaming service. This means that consumers are at the mercy of the streaming sites when it comes to selection. This situation unfortunately makes cable TV look like a relatively attractive option.

People are moving into a world of uncertainty where more offerings, both in terms of hardware and software, actually means less of a consistent experience for users.

Its a tough pill to swallow going back to cable TV Once people have cut the cord and moved online. It’s a small step though for users to move from a messy clutter of legal streaming services, to the simplicity of something like PopcornTime. With torrents there is no need to worry about geographical restrictions on content. There is no need to worry about which streaming provider happens to own a specific show or movie that you would like to watch. Everything can be found through one well-accepted standard. Sounds like a great idea. Lets hope that streaming sites recognise who their greatest competition will soon be.

Streaming has the potential to take over the way people consume media. Companies looking to enter the market should understand that they need to no only be concerned with their competition in the Cable and Satellite TV market, but also their soon to be competition in the ruthless market of free online content. With every streaming provider trying to compete on their own the streaming the market is poised to unfathomably diluted. The mobile payments market suffered a similar fate where none of the parties involved were willing to relinquish sole control of their platform (and thus any profits) in order to provide consumers with a consistent experience. The end result was a maddening increase in competing standards which caused no one to use any of the systems.

The popularity of Netflix and their business model is testament to consumers willingness to pay for content given a reasonable price and a simple way of accessing it. We can only hope that providers recognise the the danger of the idea of becoming the dominant streaming service before the market collapses on everyone.

Hayward Peirce Written by:

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