Four things keeping cable TV alive

Things keeping cable TV alive (Photo: Thinkstock)

You may have heard that any day now, we’ll all be cutting our cable or satellite cords and living in a blissful world of streaming and downloading content. Well, I wouldn’t get out the cable cutters just yet, because for all the talk of the new cordless utopia, the fact is, there is some content that you might really miss.

Take a 2013 report called “The reality of ‘cord cutting’ in North America” by Deloitte, an international company of more than 200,000 professionals and independent firms providing consulting services.

Despite all the hype about people dropping their cable or satellite subscription, Deloitte found that just wasn’t the case. In fact, multichannel video programming distributors reported a net rise in cable and satellite TV subscribers, according to Deloitte

“At the end of the day, content is king, whether it’s live sports, news, original drama and comedy series, or reality TV,” says Rick Herman, chief strategy officer for MobiTV, which works with network and cable providers to make subscribers’ content available inside and outside the home on mobile devices.

And for the most part, cable has that content before any of their streaming competitors. Perhaps that’s why the Deloitte study called live sports, news, reality TV, and original series the four pillars of pay TV.

Keep reading to take a closer look at these four pillars that are keeping cable alive and thriving...

Live Sports

Next March Madness, tell all your friends that your March Madness party will be the day after the big game, when you’ll replay the event. See how many RSVPs you get. We’re guessing none, because let’s face it, sports are best seen live, and for most of the nation, cable TV is the way to tune in.

So it’s not surprising that the Deloitte study found that “The proportion of households in North America with at least one family member willing to pay for TV sports is estimated to be more than 80 percent.”

“Live sports is a crown jewel for the cable and satellite guys,” confirms Herman. “If you ticked the list of the top fifty events [in viewership] for us, probably 40 of them are live sporting events.”

Richard Frankland, a vice president with Irdeto, a world leader in content security, management, and delivery for pay media companies, says the one challenge cable has with live sports is piracy.

“But you’re not going to get what you want in pirated content,” he says. “It’s not going to be the best quality, it’s complicated to access, and it’s illegal.”

So unless you’re the techie-est Raiders or Dodgers fan on the planet, you’ll pony up for cable.

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Reality TV

Whether it's "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" or finding out who the next "Iron Chef" is, America is hooked on reality TV.

And the best place for reality TV is on cable, says Brad Carston and Jon Maurice, executive producers with NoCoast Originals, and developers of reality shows such as Fast N’ Loud and Resale Royalty.

Carston says a big factor driving reality TV is that often the subjects are the center of pop culture, so people want to stay up to date and watch the episodes when they air.

“When you’re talking about food, fashion, music, these are things that are from arts and culture and you want to know you’re on top of that. Six months later, everybody else has done it and talked about it,” he says.

Finally, there’s just no denying the numbers. In this case, try over 11 million viewers. That was the number of people who tuned into the reality singing competition, "The Voice," during the week of June 10th. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

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Ann Cody, who runs her own business from home, says she could probably get her news fix online, but she prefers it on her big screen TV and cable is the easiest way to do it. She also enjoys watching some quality “fake-news” like "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart and "The Colbert Report" while she cooks or pays bills.

“If I dropped my cable I don’t know the first step about replacing my news, or any other content, through streaming or other means. That just seems like a headache,” Cody says. “Besides, I’m totally addicted to The Colbert Report.”

Then there are the big events like the royal wedding, the presidential election, natural disasters, and of course, scandals. When those things hit, most people instinctively grab for the cable remote, not the computer mouse.

“The thing with news is it tends to be consumed as it happens. Particularly if it’s breaking news, you want to get it when it happens. It tends to be big spikes,” says MobiTV’s Herman.

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Original Series

As Herman said earlier, content is king. And that became clear in 1999 when HBO produced "The Sopranos." It was a show that made viewers a deal they could not refuse: Sign up for HBO, only on cable, or be left out at the office.

As Carsten says, “You don’t want to be the guy that’s not in on the water cooler moment. The Sopranos was it. If you didn’t know what was going on in 'The Sopranos' you were out; people looked at you like, ‘What the hell do you do with your life?’ It came to the point where people had to get HBO.”

Kevin Lockett, who runs a pop culture and entertainment blog called Music is My Soul, says that today’s original drama and comedy series are just as high-value and beloved as "The Sopranos" was.

“Cable has become the ‘Must See TV’ of the 21st century,” he says, naming shows like "Game of Thrones", "Breaking Bad", and "Mad Men".

And in particular, original, high-production-value series are capturing viewers who want to follow a good story, adds Lockett.

“A story that will make them forget about their lives and dive into one that stirs emotion. A story with rich characters that you root for, or against,” he says.

Characters you may even want to pay a subscription fee for.