Travel and leisure marketing: If cable TV is dying, why haven’t they announced the funeral?

Are the proclamations about the death of cable premature?

Are the internet prognosticators accurate in proclaiming the demise of cable?

The latest pay TV numbers are in. Depending on who you read, it’s either another sign of the weak economy or another example that traditional media is collapsing at the seams.

Just compare the way Ad Age reported the story versus the way social media nerve center Hubspot presented it.

Ad Age’s headline: Americans are Dumping Cable, but Execs say Economics to Blame.

Hubspot’s headline:  Another Sign of Outbound Marketing’s Death:  Cable TV Sees First Ever Decline in Subscribers.

So who’s right?

With all due respect to Hubspot (one of my favorite sources for social media news and info) I think their article is a combination of wishful thinking and industry propaganda.

Let’s look at the facts.

  • The multi-channel TV industry–which includes cable, satellite, and the telcos who offer cable and satellite TV–collectively lost 216,000 subscribers in Q2.
  • The cable industry alone lost 711,000 subscribers.
  • That is indeed a dramatic downturn that begs the question, “Why?”
  • Hubspot attributes the loss in large part to the rise in the amount of video consumed on YouTube, Hulu and other online sites that allow you to watch whole episodes.

To be fair to Hubspot, this medium has seen some dramatic increases in viewership.

  • YouTube reached an all-time viewing high of 14.6 billion views in May, more than 100 videos per viewer.
  • During the same period, Hulu accumulated more than 1 billion video views from 43 million unique viewers.

Now let’s look at the research in cable’s favor.

  • Even with the recent losses, the multi-channel industry boasted 100 million paying subscribers (Take that Hulu!).
  • According to Nielson’s latest 3 Screen Report, the average American spent 3 hours 10 minutes a month viewing streaming video.
  • By comparison, the average American spent 158 hours 25 minutes a month watching TV, much of it cable TV.
  • TV viewership increased 2 hours over the same period a year ago, whereas online video usage increased just 11 minutes versus a year ago.

I’ll give the last word to the independent media analysts at SNL Kagan.

Ad Age interviewed Ian Olgierson, a senior analyst at SNL Kagan, who commented: “To say that this signals the top of the market and it’s all downhill from here would be shortsighted.”


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