So Comcast is looking to offer a new streaming service in 2020. The cost, free, or paid. It depends on whether you are already paying to watch TV via a pay service. When we say pay service we are not referring to any of the cable replacement services like Sling TV or DirecTV Now. We are referring to what has come to be known traditional TV. That would be cable and satellite services.
What Comcast is proposing is almost a companion service to pay TV providers. If you are a pay-TV provider you can offer a service through Comcast that will allow customers to stream NBC Universal content for free with limited commercial interruption. No doubt Comcast’s experience with Hulu has informed the company on the benefits of offering content with commercials.
What the service sounds like from the limited amount of information released concerning the idea is that it would be set up almost like an ad-supported version of Hulu but consisting primarily of content from NBC and other libraries including Sony. This comes of strange considering that Sony is already in the free ad-supported streaming game via Crackle.
Comcast may though be working to figure out a place in the new order of the TV space going forward. There is simply mounting evidence that cable subscribers will continue to drop. The numbers will never change as dramatically as polls always seem to indicate, because they are based on people saying they are are considering dropping cable etc. But there has been a slow drip of subscribers who for one reason or another, usually linked to price, have cancelled large TV packages. The Comcast model does not exactly address those people. It will be aimed primarily at customers who still pay for TV. But the question we would like to ask is, will this always be the case.
The Internet is quickly becoming like the public air waves. The only thing really holding it back is bandwidth. And as that issue gets to be less of a problem more and more media companies will be looking at a way to make money with their assets. But the subscription model may soon reach its tipping point. While there are millions of potential customers for any given streaming service study after study has shown that consumers feel like there are too many to pay for. No service should expect to be one of 7. In the face of so many options that things get hard to afford people turn to password sharing and even outright piracy. The simple solution to avoid this is to simply make content online ad supported like a normal broadcast network. The model has worked for decades. People are used to it, even the ones who complain about it.
Subscriptions should probably be limited to premium content. Want a library of original content like HBO or Netflix, expect to pay a premium. On the other hand if you want to see last nights episode of the voice, you should expect to watch some ads and get over it.
I submit that Comcast is planning to roll out their service as a trial balloon starting with their own customers. It will then encourage other providers to pick it up with one financial incentive or another. Once it can figure out how much it needs to ramp up over time in order to handle the demand which will start off small and rise over a period of years, it will be able to open the service up to anybody with an Internet connection. Cable users will continue to decline. While the number of Americans with pay TV now stands at 80 percent it was larger a decade ago. And it will continue to shrink as the world war 2 generation quickly passes away followed by aging baby boomers. This will not be the last service of its type to be announced by a long shot.