A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece describing how Dish Networks' decision to drop AMC is another milestone in the coming total disruption of how television content is distributed and consumed. Here's the heart of the matter:
The thing is that the television industry is going through a revolution right now along the same lines that has happened and is happening to the music and newspaper/content industries…. The last great bastion of this kind of content "bundling" comes in the form of the often egregious rates that people pay to access dozens or hundreds of television channels that will never be watched, never be browsed, never be surfed.
Thus the birth of the "cord cutting" movement, renegade consumers who are pulling out of paying expensive rates month after month and are instead piecing together an a la carte content menu in which desired individual shows and episodes are culled from the likes of Hulu, Xbox 360, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Boxee, Netflix, Roku, and even YouTube.
Ironically, this movement will cause companies like Dish to attempt to squeeze more money out of networks now before the walls come crumbling down… But the truth is that the walls are crumbling down.
Well, just after that, DirecTV and Viacom went at it over money and carriage fees, with the upshot being that DirecTV consumers have lost the ability – for the moment at any rate – to see any Viacom programming (this includes Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, Spike… essentially the bread-and-butter television menu for your average college-age kid).
What fascinates me the most though is that DirecTV CEO Mike White is openly advocating that cable consumers should be able to order the cable channels that they want to watch a la carte.
“At the very least, we think Viacom should be willing to give your family the choice to pay for only those channels you watch,” White said (via GigaOm).
Of course just as in politics, often the biggest "gaffes" happen when someone states the truth in public, and this is a truth that is increasingly possible in an age where consumers have more options due to technology and the proliferation of content distribution means into the home.
White is to be commended though for pointing to the elephant in the room and in effect saying, "Yep, there she is." And I believe that what is now happening inrelatively small numbers will increase to the point soon – like within a few years – where the way that television content is produced, distributed, monetized, and consumed on the whole will be vastly different than how it is today.
And I would go even further than White's mention of the channel as the basis for the a la carte system. Much like iTunes broke down the music album format, consumers want to be able to consume television episodes a la carte.
Obviously, this is possible even now in many forms. I purchase episodes on Xbox 360 Live's marketplace and iTunes all the time now. The ease with which this content can be purchased and viewed on multiple platforms will undoubtedly cause millions of cost-conscious consumers to critically evaluate where their entertainment dollars are spent and ask:
Is this whole cable/satellite television bill that we're currently paying really worth it… when there are other viable options out there?
[Updated: Original version of this story incorrectly identified Mike White as the CEO of Viacom.]