Cord cutting has been a topic of great concern for cable companies, networks and even marketers for some time now, as online TV streaming services have been conquering the still-emerging Millennial market.
Unfortunately, the speed at which subscribers are cutting cable seems to be increasing, and it’s causing a bit of a stir among media types.
Is This the End of Cable as We Know It?
While it’s true that cable as a whole had its worst first quarter report ever, with a loss of an estimated 762,000 pay TV subscribers according to research firm MoffettNathanson, Leichtman Research Group found that cable networks still have approximately 50 million subscribers, roughly 40 percent of American households. Comcast, in fact, added subscribers in the first quarter, for a modest boost in their pay TV connections.
There was a record-setting decline in overall subscribers between first quarter 2016 and 2017, that’s an indisputable fact. The number of people who left cable behind in 2017 was roughly five times larger than in 2016, representing a 1.7 percent decline in overall subscriptions.
However, as we get to know the generation that will be shaping future marketing campaigns better and better, this should have come as absolutely no surprise.
Strong Starts for Cable Alternatives
Cable isn’t mobile, it doesn’t allow a user to check in on a favorite show on demand while waiting for a bus or commuting on a train.
This means cable isn’t for Millennials, which is why smart cable companies are beginning to branch out with streaming offerings for the generation that’s always on the go. In the Leichtmann report, Sling TV saw tremendous growth, with 645,000 new sign ups for a service that only had 1.18 million subscribers at the end of the same year. DirecTV Now had already amassed 200,000 subscribers, despite the relative newness of it at the time of the report.
Although Sling TV is not physically the same as having a pay package from Dish Network, it is functionally the same. The same commercial spots run in the same way they would on a more traditional service, since the feed is coming from the exact same networks. USA Network isn’t broadcasting a different line-up, so as long as these types of cable TV alternatives exist and thrive, the only thing that’s being taken out of the picture (for marketers, anyway) is the coax cable.
Other cable TV alternatives like Hulu still offer advertising space, as do some network-specific streaming apps. Although everyone likes to predict doom and gloom on news of a rapid decline in subscribership, the truth is that right now marketers have a much different problem.
There are so many outlets with which to advertise that it can be hard to pick just a few to really focus on. These advertising slots will continue to exist, simply because streaming services need income to survive and thrive. It doesn’t matter if people are cutting the cord as long as they continue to subscribe.
Surviving in a Cord-Cutting World
Advertising has become a different creature as the options for advertising space continue to expand.
Marketers have a slightly easier job thanks to cord cutting, since it’s much more likely any given marketer can gather much more specific demographic data from outlets like Hulu than Comcast could ever provide. And after all, that’s the key, isn’t it? Survival in a cord-free world doesn’t mean having to find interesting ways to advertise on busses, it just means marketers will have to be smarter about their campaigns and how they’re delivered to various outlets.
Cord cutting could be just the start of the ad personalization revolution for offline entertainment platforms. As our online lives become increasingly integrated with our offline ones, the abundance of data available to devices that can communicate with one another, like smartphones and streaming boxes, are going to give marketers the data and tools they need to really ramp up the ROI of their efforts.