"The pay TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever," analysts Craig Moffett andMichael Nathanson wrote in a report yesterday. Cable is in a free fall, led by Time Warner Cable’s horrendous quarter, in which it lost 306,000 homes while it blacked out CBS over carriage fees.
Quartz’s Ritchie King, who absolutely has the best graphics on this phenomenon, charts the big picture. First, look right: Netflix is on a tear. Then left: The pay-TV business is clutching the 100-million-household bar like a baby sloth, as cable implodes but satellite and telco (e.g.: Verizon, AT&T) subs make up the difference.
Superheroes have ruled the box office for more than a decade; now, they’re looking to conquer new worlds. Marvel just announced four of its superheroes are getting shows on Netflix. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist each will star in 13-episode series, set in New York City. The four characters will then cross over into one another’s storylines, a la how The Avengers tied together Marvel’s solo films. The announcement at this point is short on details, but packs a lot of significance—almost all of it good.
Read more. [Image: Alex Maleev/Marvel]
The mom-and-pop stores that preceded the now-dead rental chain had character–but made you bring the videos back the very next day.
Read more. [Image: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr]
Netflix is in serious talks with Comcast and other pay-TV providers to hop onto the cable bundle as a stand-alone channel. Add it to the list of tech companies—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel—who have internally debated trying to “disrupt” the cable TV business, but have wound up working with the cable companies (e.g.: Apple, Xbox) or simply built their own cable equivalent (Google Fiber TV).
For those who already have cable, Netflix, and an Web TV box, this might change nothing. But it’s a potential landmark moment in the pay-TV wars, precisely because it shows that the battle between Internet and traditional TV isn’t as bloody as some analysts like to pretend—at least, not yet.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Just a few months ago, the concept of water-cooler television—where weekly episodes become communal, must-see live events that dominate workplace conversations—had become something of an anachronism, at least to those working behind the scenes.
In The New York Times’ August showrunner roundtable, Netflix’s House of Cards creator Beau Willimon declared the end of the singular, common viewing experience, which he argued had been replaced by smaller, “concentric circles” of conversation that better reflected how time-shifting technologies and on-demand options have fragmented audiences. (The rise of second-screen viewing, where audiences live-tweet Scandal, Pretty Little Liars, and moreon mobile devices during the show, was said to be the new home for the collective experience.) Later that month, The Guardian excerpted a lecture from Cards' Kevin Spacey that touted the success of the Netflix original series as "kill[ing] the watercooler moment."
Similarly, in his July review of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Time’s James Poniewozik wrote that while social media can create communal, participatory events—take this summer’s short-lived Sharknado craze, for example—Netflix-style distribution “upends the principle of water-cooler TV: that we see the same things at the same time. The most dedicated Breaking Bad fan will not know Walter White’s fate before you do. Whereas a Netflix season is like a dark maze; we may enter around the same time, but we exit, blinking, separately.”
Read more. [Image: Ursula Coyote/AMC]
Kevin Spacey gave a great, great speech recently about the TV entertainment business. ”We have learned a lesson that the music industry didn’t learn,” he said. “Give people what they want. When they want it. In the form they want it in. At a reasonable price. And they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”
Here’s the wow-quote of the day, from Jeff Gaspin, the head of entertainment at NBC, explaining to The New York Times, with remarkable clarity and certainty, that watching TV shows on-demand is more satisfying than watching them live.
"The commercials broke the tension … I hate to say this to the AMC executives and everybody else in the business, but I will never watch ‘Walking Dead’ live again."
Is that a gaffe? A truism? Either way, it’s right. Fewer people are watching the networks live because viewers have found better television and/or better ways to watch it. Live ratings have declined for 14 straight quarters across the networks. Meanwhile, NBC is getting regularly smacked around by ABC, CBS, and Fox. It’s barely outperformed Univision when you take out sports, according to TV by the Numbers.
But the latest news — that the networks are facing the mother of all spring swoons — is a short-term acceleration of a long-term trend. The networks’ share of primetime TV audience (dark blue in the graph below) has declined from 45% in 1985 to 25% in 2009. Basic cable ate the networks’
lunchpost-dinner audience, and now it’s technology’s turn gobble up what’s left.
Even with this long trend line (and despite the fact that viewers often unplug in the spring), there is a sense that we’ve reached a tipping point thanks to what Gaspin calls “built-up libraries.” There is more good stuff to watch not-on-live-TV than on live-TV, and even the head of entertainment at NBC knows it.
A report from Reuters that Netflix is in talks with an unnamed cable company has us worried. The information comes from unnamed sources and only mentions a quiet discussion of adding the streaming service to cable, but if it all pans out, Netflix will become ”available as another on-demand option for cable subscribers through their set-top boxes … as an additional option added onto a subscriber’s cable bill,” sources told Reuters’ Yinka Adegoke and Lisa Richwine. Translation: The streaming service “of the future” would join forces with the established companies we’d hope it would help us get away from.