I wrote recently about cutting the cord , i.e. canceling cable TV and watching TV programming online and “over the air.” We did it in December and for me, so far so good. I haven’t decided whether its better…it probably isn’t. But then again, it’s not worse. It’s just different.
My 18 year old son, Sam, whose day begins and ends with Sports Center is not even close to liking it. His tolerance for this kind of trial and error is low…he can’t conceptualize that since you can turn something on (the TV) and press a button (on the remote) and have the wide world of sports (and everything else) at your fingertips, why anyone would want to add extra steps (e.g. connecting an AppleTV, pressing HDMI2 and then Netflix) even to try. This resistance to extra steps (inertia?) is probably not atypical which is why cord cutting, despite the headlines and predictions about the immediate death of cable are overstated.
Overstated yes, but cable TV is old media and the old media model is dying…..TV is not dying (in my opinion, its actually improved), magazines, newspapers are not dying, but the distribution model, the business model is on life support. Scott Karp does a great job explaining the disruption of the news syndication model…he mentions the distribution of news on social networks, the growing importance of social curation in content distribution vs search (though search is not at all even in the doctor’s waiting room, much less on life support and social is not separate from search) and the impact of free web content.
This is not just what is disrupting the news syndication model….it is what has disrupted media period. Let’s go back to the dawn of social….publishing platforms, web 2.0, Cluetrain; so really not so long ago in real time (2003:O’Reilly Web 2.0 Media Conference) and here we are today with Twitter, Facebook, Netflix. Follow me, friend me, check in, streaming live are part of the daily vernacular of #everyoneweknow#everyonewearerelatedto based upon media businesses that didn’t exist a few minutes ago. And all of the accompanying shifts in ownership, layoffs, chapter 11′s and so on in publishing and broadcast media businesses and the mad scrambling to effectively integrate the old with the new which is in the end, all about control.
And cutting the cord is one part of this disruption….I was spending over $70 a month for a “bundle” that defied logical explanation or understanding from a cable company that only delivers their high quality customer service on Twitter and whose annoying advertising campaign that depict people who love watching TV as an endangered species are reason enough to cut the cord. Now the consumer benefit in those spots is where? The issue, cable company, is delivering value to customers who have lots of content choices unless there really are enough couch potatoes longing for the good old analog days.
So, was there a seminal moment when media changed for good? April 2010, the iPad. The iPad brought it all together. One year ago it was not together. It was all over the desk top and the laptop and the mobile device and there were user experiences and user interfaces. With the iPad there is user experience and user interface. One year and over 9MM iPads and 40,000 Apps.
According to the Donald J Reynolds Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism (Sam Richmond will be a freshman there this fall I am proud to report) the quality of the user experience, the ease of the user interface, and the pricing of Apps and content are the reasons that users are spending quality time on their iPads. For the inertia demographic who need the seamless experience and who have $500, iPad is a life changer.
So back to the issue underlying Sam’s resistance to ending cable: too many steps for an unknown reward? Well, he already has a PS3 that is connected to his TV for games. One little thumb nudge and he gets Netflix, HuluPlus, MLB.Live, movies and TV shows on demand. Ah, ESPN is not there. Life will not be perfect until then….if cable can control live sports distribution they are still in the game.
Now, it is March 2011 and in a few days iPad2 will be available. It will have a camera (important!), it will be lighter (not so important), and according to the New York Times (but really DARRELL ETHERINGTON of GigaOm) the killer feature is HD mirroring which he explains means that one can stream content from Netflix, Hulu Plus etc directly to a TV with an HDMI cord and adaptor without the need for the $99 AppleTV that you might have just purchased (the one that you can not stream HuluPlus on). I am sure there is more.
So, this leads to my conundrum…like Marshall Kirkpatrick who wrote last year that he was going to get an iPad right away. He said life is short and he felt he had missed out by waiting to get an iPhone and wanted to begin enjoying an iPad as soon as possible. I felt the same way…and right now I am waiting to get the new iPhone this summer. First I was waiting for Verizon, now the new iPhone…my contract has been up for a year. But the iPad2? I LOVE my iPad. I am sure the iPad2 is better. But my iPad is still shiny and new and I still find new things to do on it….sigh.