As I write this piece, I’m watching the Saints game, but not through cable. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 1 million consumers cancelled their cable subscriptions in the last quarter – the largest seasonal drop ever. As a customer of the local cable company since the early 90’s, I recently became a part of that 1 million. It’s something I’ve been wanting do for a long time.
I read countless articles about people leaving cable and how it’s shifting the advertising landscape. This obviously directly impacts my job and the services my agency provides to marketers, but I now have a personal perspective as to why consumers switch and how it impacts brands.
So why did I leave cable? Well, there are a combination of reasons, all of which I think most people these days can relate to.
We have four kids, and my wife and I both work. To say our life is hectic is an understatement. Like most families, we never stand still. School, soccer, dance, piano, choir, birthday parties, Boy Scouts, work, hunting, fishing, grocery runs, and countless other things on our calendar eat up the day. As night falls, there really isn’t much time to watch TV. On the rare occasion there is a break, I have a specific and short list of things I like to watch. Because of that, my viewing habits have changed over the last few years, and the amount of TV I consume has decreased. So I felt it was time for a new solution to my hectic life, and cable wasn’t it.
Within those precious few periods when I did have time to watch, I noticed that outside of a handful of specific programs I like, I was watching what I’ll call “busy programs.” That is, content that is halfway interesting, but more of a time suck in the grand scheme of life. I received very little in return for watching them, other than the passing of time. Realizing that life would still go on without this waste of time, I became more and more convinced that cable was actually decreasing my quality of life and wasting time.
I mentioned above that my TV viewing is limited to a handful of programs. Truth be told, most of them aren’t on cable networks. With platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon pumping billions into production each year, it’s easy to find interesting content on these platforms that you should put on your list. This same content has been at the center of my desire to cut the cord. And it’s not just me. Our kids do most of their TV viewing through Netflix and Amazon. To them, it’s the norm as it’s what they’re growing up with – a far cry from the norm of my childhood. So while we would still use cable to watch some programming – LSU and Saints football, local news, some other content – the bulk of our viewing has shifted to streaming services that are producing their own content.
This shouldn’t come at a surprise to anyone. Cable can get expensive. While they promote inexpensive packages, the cable providers stack on the fees for everything. Want HD? Fee. DVR box? Fee. Sports package? Fee. For us, costs got up there. Sure, we could have cut back on a DVR box or eliminated a bundle of channels. But when you can get your local channels AND almost all of the core networks through alternative services for only $40 per month, it’s hard to stay with the cable company. Yes, the service we went with is lacking two networks that we’d normally watch. And frankly I miss them because said networks were educational in nature, and the entire family would sometimes watch together. But life goes on, and change is good, right? Plus, there are other ways to watch those networks.
I don’t watch a huge amount of TV. However, there are times when I’m traveling or there is a LSU or Saints game I want to watch, but I can’t be in front of a TV. So the ability to watch TV anywhere is mighty fine. And while our cable provider had such capabilities, our new service’s interface and quality is fantastic. The on-the-go app exceeds expectation, and the picture quality and controls within the app are great. Actually, this type of experience is life-changing. Who knows, maybe I’ll start watching more content.
Now that we’ve parted ways with the cable company, what’s life like? Honestly, it’s different but good. The biggest difference is the interface. Watching TV through one of the streaming services like Hulu is different from your cable provider. The most noticeable difference is the guide. Truth be told, cable’s guide is very user friendly and easy. And that’s probably why so many people watch mindless content – it’s easy to see what’s on the labyrinth of networks and waste away hours on home renovation, DIY and cooking shows. While the guide on a service like Hulu is similar in structure, it’s not as quick or easy to scroll and see what’s on. There is room for improvement here (listen up Hulu).
On the flip side, that less-than-easy guide does provide some good. It forces you to no longer go down the rabbit hole of mindless, time-wasting content that we all regret after a few episodes. Instead, the experience trains you to be more focused, gravitating towards the content you want to watch. You then walk away with a more rewarding experience where you consume only content that adds value to your life.
Finally, we’re saving money. In fact, we’re saving over a hundred dollars per month, while still having our local channels, most of the core networks, 50 hours of DVR time each month, and the ability to watch on several devices.
Cutting the cord makes sense for my family. And as I put my marketing hat on, I see a few glaring benefits that advertisers should concentrate on. These days, people are getting more focused in what they watch and follow (being efficient with their time). It’s no longer channel surfing, but entertainment that feeds a need. So as your brand looks to engage with consumers, think about how TV viewing has shifted, and how your brand can provide value within that new dynamic.
Written by Eric Morgan, President of Morgan and Co.
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