Cable loses subscribers, where are they going?

Cable subscribers jumped ship to the tune of 500,000+ last quarter, according to GigaOm, and for the first time in a while, GigaOm says other subscription “cable-like” services, such as satellite or IPTV services, didn’t make up the gap. That means a real percentage of Americans were cutting the cord, permanently.

Of course, given that we’re a video platform which supports delivering to a variety of devices, none of which are cable TV endpoints, the news strikes us exciting. It’s great for us as TV continues to diversify and evolve toward its eventual endpoint with the internet, but we’re not taking a victory lap just yet.

To be sure, we’re going through a pretty tragic time for many— 9.6% unemployment in October, with new statistics scheduled to hit tomorrow. We’re going to say that the 500k people cutting the cord aren’t all doing so because they’ve fallen in love with the Roku yet, but instead they’re looking to skimp on non-essential lifestyle expenditures where possible.

Despite the rough economic outlook, we think some people are getting more accustomed to the idea of constantly available entertainment, not dictated by outdated schedules nor other archaic paradigms. And, luckily for the TV industry, the economic model isn’t completely disintegrating as it did for the record industry thanks to Napster. No, almost quite the contrary. With ventures like ESPN3, TV Everywhere and of course, our clients, traditional radio and TV stations haven’t hid their heads in the sand, but instead have seemingly embraced technology.

That doesn’t mean there still won’t be dramatic shifts, but the shifts are likely to be styled differently. For instance, rather than the distribution mechanic drastically altering the consumption of the medium (Napster), I’m expecting broadcast media to be drastically altered due to the decrease in the cost of content production. A quick look around Vimeo shows that amateur cinematographers could credit card their way into professional-grade DSLR cinematography. In the future, live video production, such as we’re used to with news and sports programming, is not going to be exempt from similar market forces. We could see a massively level playing field where anyone with the right ideas, and the right amount of people, could put on a production that’s as good as anything else we’re seeing on cable.

By then, with more people wanting to distribute more content broadly, folks who’ve already started gathering their audiences will be in a better situation to profit from the impending doom of the cable cord.

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