Original Content and Binge Watching: Keys to Collapsing Cable Bundles?

Mobile device users love their content. So do home users. They don’t necessarily love the ways they have to access it and there is always tension between the content owners and the content users. This manifests itself in many different forms, one of those being the Cord Cutting phenomenon where users forsake Cable TV bundles to view TV style content from other sources. Depending on who you listen to, Cord Cutting is a trend or a myth. The dream is to get rid of bundled packages of content that feature channels many users will never watch and instead have an à la carte system of letting users pick and choose what they want to see. Cord Cutters also seem to love binge watching.

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Netflix, Amazon, and now Microsoft, among others have all been providing or working on providing original content. Reports say that Netflix accounts for a large percentage of nightly viewers across the Internet, even if the main body of the content it provides isn’t as fresh as what you might find through other channels. But the phenomenon of binge watching seems to be a trend that is making the Cable TV folks a little concerned about the future.

Binge watching is when you use Netflix or Hulu Plus to watch an entire series of episodes of one show. It really is no different than when consumers would buy a DVD or BluRay disk of an entire TV season, or kick back and watch an entire series of Downton Abbey from their DVR. The difference is that original programming provides you with fresh content. When a series like House of Cards is made available all at once it delights binge watchers. And when they are spending a night or two consuming a season of House of Cards, they aren’t watching the other guy’s content. Original content + binge watching = the future.

When original content from Netflix, like House of Cards, starts garnering awards it makes everyone sit up and pay attention. Recently nominated for four Golden Globe awards, the second season is scheduled to debut on February 14, 2014. It breaks the mold of one episode a week and appeals to a variety of different life styles that traditional TV programming (if there is such a thing any more) used to rely on. Most consumers threw that model away years ago and despite protestations the cable kings know this but haven’t found a way to change what they do and keep the profits rolling in.

HBO Go is another game changer that is helping advance the issue. Given that consumers can view HBO original content on their mobile devices or set top boxes (like Apple TV) is there any reason to tune into the HBO channels on your cable station anymore? Unfortunately, HBO Go points up how far away we are from real change, as you still need a cable subscription with HBO Go to access content via HBO Go.

We’re probably still aways off from breaking the cable bundle model, but each new entry into original programming and binge watching gives consumers another glimpse into a future when they can better control their own viewing habits. The day we can get away from bundles can’t come soon enough.

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