And boom, as we like to say oh so often on this here blog, goes the dynamite.
In a sprawling if not entirely provocative piece that went up yesterday, Jim Edwards from Business Insider said television is currently dying and he has numbers to prove it.
And boy. Does he have numbers to prove it.
Enhanced by more charts than a seventh-grader’s math book (or a nurse’s office space, take your pick), the report is fascinating. In fact, it’s so fascinating, I suggest you click on over there, read it, and then come back for some obnoxious commentary.
You back? Good.
Now, let’s highlight a few things you read:
- For the first time ever, the number of cable TV subscribers at major providers is about to dip below 40 million.
- Cable and broadband companies are increasingly unable to retain customers.
- Fewer households have TV because they are watching video on mobile devices instead.
And then, this:
- The TV business may actually be addicted to the very thing that is killing it.
Go on, the disembodied voice says in that annoyingly smug voice …
“Even though cable TV has had its worst year ever,” Edwards wrote, “cable TV revenues are still rising because companies are charging the dwindling number of customers more in subscription fees. According to analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson, those higher prices are ‘part of the problem’ that pushes out poor subscribers.”
Poor as in, we-have-no-money poor, or poor as in oh-look-at-those-sad-subscribers poor or poor as in excellent-great-good-fair-poor poor? I’ll tell you what: You can pour me a drink after all that talk!
Anyway, you’ve gotta read that. I mean, the numbers are nothing short of astonishing. There’s wi-fi. There’s denial. There’s mobility. There’s prime time. There’s a little bit of everything. Every. Thing. And it’s all undeniable because as Jay-Z once said, friends, “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” Oh, wisdom.
Here’s the one thing not broached in Edwards’ fantastic roundup: Quality. Reading over all the signs, studies, figures and results, I couldn’t help but land on the notion that the moment someone realizes how much mindless drivel he or she is watching is the moment he or she begins to question the entire pay-for-television practice. Yeah, advanced technology is the culprit behind all this information, but a pretty influential accomplice would have to be a lack of good programming, no?
Think about it: If you start to evaluate the difference between things you watch on a consistent basis and things you like watching on a consistent basis, you’d probably start reconsidering your viewing habits, too. For the longest time, society and tradition has held captive an entire country’s worth of people when it comes to entertainment consumerism. “Oh, I really love watching ‘Step By Step,’ but it doesn’t come on until after ‘Family Matters,’ so I guess I’ll watch Urkel, too,” people used to say.
But now it’s “Oh, I really love watching ‘Step By Step’ so I’ll DVR it and catch it when it get home.”
Or, it’s “Oh, I really love watching ‘Step By Step,’ but I’ll wait for the DVDs.”
Or it’s “Oh, I really love watching ‘Step By Step,’ but I’ll just catch up with it on Hulu or Netflix.”
Or — and this is where the fat cats really start to tremble — “Oh, I really love watching ‘Step By Step,’ but there’s really nothing else I like enough to justify having a cable television package and boy, it’d be nice to have an extra 70 bucks a month. You know what? Why don’t I just see what it would be like if I canceled my cable subscription for a little bit?”
If you take the time to establish what it is you love and what it is you like … and then what it is you don’t even care about … you’d probably send a shiver down your back, realizing how disposable all those channels truly are. For decades, we’ve been a slave to sneaking a peak at “The Real World” or grown too comfortable with the casual “Conan” episode. It’s not that we don’t find enjoyment in some of these things, per se; it’s just that whatever enjoyment we find is essentially expendable. Why pay for 150 channels when you watch only six of them? Why give money to the Kardashians when all you want to do is watch “SportsCenter?”
These are the age-old questions when it comes to living the TV Without A TV lifestyle, sure, but they also grow more prominent with each new approach, each new alternative, each new preference. And in a popular culture now more obsessed with The Next Thing than it’s ever been, television consumerism, as we know, will undergo (and, if these 200-plus blog posts are any indication, is already undergoing) a sea-change in model and a revolution in reason.
2013 may have been the worst year in the history of the medium, but sometimes it takes hitting the bottom before you can begin a rise back to the top. And if Jim Edwards’ story and research says anything at all, it suggests that ascension might at this point be far closer than it’s been in a long, long time.