2011: The Year of the Cord Cutter?

  • Share
  • Read Later

There’s plenty to hate about cable TV—most notably, the nonsensical package structure of monthly bills in which the average customer pays for 117 channels and watches only 17 (and nothing good seems to be on ever), and the fact that cable rates have risen 59% since 1996 (three times the rate of inflation). While some 800,000 cable customers have cut the cord over the past two years, the vast majority of us couch potatoes just can’t quit pay TV, despite how much we’d love to switch to a product with better programming that’s more worth the money—and at the same time tell the cable companies to kiss off.

There are plenty of how-to guides for cutting the cable cord. And if the dramatic increase in digital antenna sales is any indication, the population of consumers eager to drop cable (or some portion of their cable bill) is growing rapidly.

But for one reason or another, many TV addicts just can’t cancel cable. Even some fairly tech-savvy consumers are frustrated with all of the hoops and hassles which must be jumped through or handled when it comes to getting substantial, quality viewing options from a source other than traditional pay TV. A reviewer for CNET, for example, recently kept a diary of his experience cutting the cord—which ended in failure, a call to Verizon to pipe the cable back into his home, and much disappointment among the readership.

Why did he have to crawl back to Verizon with his clicker between his legs, asking to be locked into another two-year contract? Bad antenna reception, the absences of a workable DVR, and the overall difficulty of multiple interfaces to find something to watch. Also, a biggie, no sports:

Even if I achieved perfect reception by securing the antenna better or cutting down a tree or two, the five major networks available over-the-air aren’t enough for my household. I missed sports and currently there’s basically no completely legal way to watch my home baseball and basketball teams without cable TV (Internet options like NBA League Pass black out local teams).

Based on the hot trends at the Consumer Electronics Show taking place later this week, however, it seems every TV is Internet-enabled—and that it should be easier than ever to watch TV via the Internet, making it increasingly feasible and less of a hassle to cancel cable entirely.

The LA Times reports that the cord-cutting movement of 2010 may very well hit its stride with mass cancellations in 2011:

“2010 was the year that people started wondering, questioning if cord-cutting is real,” said Phil Wiser, co-founder and president of Sezmi, a service that allows users to watch TV from both local stations and online sources. “In 2011, it’s going to become obvious.”

The WSJ says that Internet-enabled TVs already represent a huge portion of the marketplace, and their share is growing in leaps and bounds:

Twenty-one percent of the roughly 210 million TV sets sold world-wide last year had an Internet connection, according to DisplaySearch, a research firm based in Santa Clara, Calif. It forecast the portion will rise to more than 50% by 2014.

Manufacturers obviously stand to make money if consumers en masse upgrade to TVs with Internet connections. Content providers and distributors should also earn revenues as more and more programming becomes available via Internet-enabled devices, and as consumers become increasingly willing to pay for such content. Overall, however, the biggest change brought about with the marriage of Internet and TV could be the decline, and perhaps death, of the ever-escalating cable bill.

For as long as I can remember, every one of the endless line of “next great” products ends up with consumers shelling out more money, whether or not the product is actually new or great.

But just imagine: For once, could it be that the next big thing might actually save consumers some money?