Viacom, Discovery Communications, and AMC Networks are in talks with four to six pay-TV providers to offer internet TV bundles for customers who aren’t interested in paying for sports, Bloomberg reports.
Talks are ongoing, but the first products to come out of these discussions could launch this year. This is the latest in the slow unbundling of the traditional pay-TV package, which was, for so long, central to the legacy TV business model.
These packages would be cheaper than other internet TV offerings. The two US networks that pay the most to acquire sports rights, ESPN and TNT, not coincidentally had the highest pay-TV carriage fees, $6.10 and $1.50 per subscriber respectively, in 2016. The proposed sports-free bundles would cost about $20 a month — in line with Sling TV’s $25 a month no-sports package, and about half the price of other entry-levels internet live TV packages from Hulu, YouTube, and PlayStation.
The concept of sports-free skinny bundles is gaining credence in the pay-TV industry. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson believes a “huge segment” of the would opt for bundles without sports, and he expects a big market for his company’s own sports-free DirecTV Now bundle. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, meanwhile, has highlighted the success of the sports-free basic bundles offered by British pay-TV provider Sky. He believes a sports-free bundle could yield a 30% profit margin for distributors, as they’d be able to forego expensive carriage fees.
Understandably, sports programmers are likely to retaliate against these new services. Networks like ESPN and TNT generate substantial revenue from affiliate fees and advertising. Becoming unbundled from TV packages makes them vulnerable on both these fronts — giving consumers the choice to opt-out of live sports puts ESPN’s subscriptions and viewership figures at risk. Sports programmers are therefore invested in protecting and preserving the cable bundle, just as ESPN did In 2015 when it sued Verizon for selling a sports-free skinny bundle.
Over the last few years, there’s been much talk about the “death of TV.” However, television is not dying so much as it’s evolving: extending beyond the traditional television screen and broadening to include programming from new sources accessed in new ways.
It’s strikingly evident that more consumers are shifting their media time away from live TV, while opting for services that allow them to watch what they want, when they want. Indeed, we are seeing a migration toward original digital video such as YouTube Originals, SVOD services such as Netflix, and live streaming on social platforms.
However, not all is lost for legacy media companies. Amid this rapidly shifting TV landscape, traditional media companies are making moves across a number of different fronts — trying out new distribution channels, creating new types of programming aimed at a mobile-first audience, and partnering with innovate digital media companies. In addition, cable providers have begun offering alternatives for consumers who may no longer be willing to pay for a full TV package.
Dylan Mortensen, senior research analyst for BI Intelligence, has compiled a detailed report on the future of TV that looks at how TV viewer, subscriber, and advertising trends are shifting, and where and what audiences are watching as they turn away from traditional TV.
Here are some key points from the report:
- Increased competition from digital services like Netflix and Hulu as well as new hardware to access content are shifting consumers’ attention away from live TV programming.
- Across the board, the numbers for live TV are bad. US adults are watching traditional TV on average 18 minutes fewer per day versus two years ago, a drop of 6%. In keeping with this, cable subscriptions are down, and TV ad revenue is stagnant.
- People are consuming more media content than ever before, but how they’re doing so is changing. Half of US TV households now subscribe to SVOD services, like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, and viewing of original digital video content is on the rise.
- Legacy TV companies are recognizing these shifts and beginning to pivot their business models to keep pace with the changes. They are launching branded apps and sites to move their programming beyond the TV glass, distributing on social platforms to reach massive, young audiences, and forming partnerships with digital media brands to create new content.
- The TV ad industry is also taking a cue from digital. Programmatic TV ad buying represented just 4% (or $2.5 billion) of US TV ad budgets in 2015 but is expected to grow to 17% ($10 billion) by 2019. Meanwhile, networks are also developing branded TV content, similar to publishers’ push into sponsored content.
In full, the report:
- Outlines the shift in consumer viewing habits, specifically the younger generation.
- Explores the rise of subscription streaming services and the importance of original digital video content.
- Breaks down ways in which legacy media companies are shifting their content and advertising strategies.
- And Discusses new technology that will more effectively measure audiences across screens and platforms.
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