Easy to read stats courtesy of the Leichtman Research Group.
Easy to read stats courtesy of the Leichtman Research Group.
So immediately after the colossal failure of Comcast’s attempt to acquire Time Warner Cable, number four aka Charter comes along with the same idea. Well actually it was Charter’s idea originally but they had managed to insult Time Warner Cable with their low ball offer.
Will Charter be successful this time? And what if anything does this mean to cord cutters across the U.S. ?
I can tell you that mere days before the Comcast deal fell apart the industry was absolutely positive it was going through. New leadership roles had already been defined by Comcast and some people had changed jobs because they didn’t want to work for Comcast.
So this time we hear “don’t worry”, this is going to be easier. The combined companies won’t be as massive as Comcast/TWC so the Feds won’t object as strongly. I agree with the market, putting the odds at 50 50. It would be foolish not to learn from the past. And I think there is at least one Comcast (former ?) lobbyist out there that agrees. And f you find this kind of speculation entertaining, watch the stock prices of these companies as the deal comes to the expected close date. Wall Street seems to know just a bit ahead of the general public.
Meanwhile, is another Cable merger , albeit a smaller one, good for cord cutters? I doubt this one will have much impact. My own area would change from TWC to Charter (assuming they keep that name) and I’d still have U-verse, Dish and DirecTV as competition.
But since everything, I expect, will eventually be delivered via the internet (OTT) what really matters is the number of internet service providers in the world. Post Charter/TWC I’d still have two: AT&T/U-verse or Charter. That’s it really. There are no WISP‘s, or independents that I can buy internet from. Even if there were, they’d be buying their pipe from the same two big providers.
In the near future, at least, it looks like that’s where we are headed. What I’ term a “virtual duopoly”. Coke or Pepsi. Apple or Android. You will have a choice, but not a big one, and prices will stabilize. That is unless Google Fiber gets serious.
For 15 months execs at Comcast were all but certain that their $45 B bid for Time Warner Cable would succeed. This acquisition attempt died a quick death on April 23, 2015. What happened and what can we learn from it?
On the surface it appears that the US regulators, in this case the FCC and the DOJ simply don’t like mega mergers that are so obviously a no-win for consumers. Comcast went in with some pretty weak arguments.
The simple truth was that Comcast would emerge with 57% of the US internet market and 30% of the pay TV customers. It was just too obvious that the new bigger company would not likely produce better service and lower prices for anyone. Just as it was obvious that AT&T + T-Mobile – another deal killed by regulators – would not be good for consumers.
If we are not cynical, we can take this to mean that all the money and influence in the world doesn’t always get you what you want. If it did, TWC would have been absorbed by the end of 2015. There is still some balance in US politics, it is not completely for sale.
For cord cutters? The decision was good news. Netflix and the emerging streaming market were not going to benefit from a bigger Comcast.
There are certainly many mid and upper level managers at TWC breathing a temporary sigh of relief. But those that follow the industry know this is just a pause, and that news of a possible Charter-TWC merger is already breaking. For Charter to succeed they will have to do a better job convincing us all that there is any benefit to another merger.
When APM Market Place did a piece tonight on Google’s new SEO criteria I rushed home to test my own site. Proud to report the results:
The surprising part of the story was that major web sites were not ready and would be penalized by Google. Guess they should have used Word Press. Maybe Nintendo and Kroger will want to buy ad space from Cord Cutter Guide!
So Verizon has decided to jump into the “exploding number of options” of new trimmed down cable packages. With a basic lineup at $54 and additional “genre packs” at $10 each this seems like a way to shave a few bucks off of your cable bill. But how much will you really save?
Toward the end of the Washington Post piece we read this :
“With Internet included, the Verizon package will add up to well over $100 a month…
Seriously? Isn’t that above the average cable bill in the US ? Well these numbers get ambiguous when it is not clearly stated if internet is part of the package. (The $54 package does NOT include internet).
These are good actual numbers to use when comparison shopping and now we can see that the Verizon’s cheapest video only lineup might actually save us about $22 per month if we’re content with it.
But internet is almost a must have in today’s world. If we go to Verizon’s cheapest package with internet at $64.99 we would be saving $58.86 over the TWC average. Of course our “savings” comes from the fact that we are simply getting less content i.e. channels.
Conclusion? Cord cutters are having an impact and the Pay TV providers are fighting back in a basic way – by offering low cost options. Of course if you really want to save some dough, shop for your best internet package, put up an antenna, subscribe to Netflix, and cut the cord entirely.
Surprisingly watching the 4th round of #TheMasters is not an issue for cord cutters today. That is if you’re happy with the offerings over at masters.com. This isn’t exactly what CBS will be broadcasting later today. But it is a lot of golf offering 4 different video streams.
UPDATE 11:30am PDT: CBS Broadcast is also free streaming.
Live coverage requires no credentials. Just click the image below:
It looks like Shaw, Telus, Rogers etc don’t have the same kind of political clout as does Comcast here in the U.S. Canadian regulators have mandated that by the end of 2016 consumers will be able to pick and choose their channel lineup.
The formula is interesting: $25 for basic plus $x per each additional channel. The basic package sounds like now defunct Aereo.
If I had this option I’d immediately sign up and add maybe the two additional cable channels I like. (Can you even get the Golf Channel in Canada?)
Still some questions remain:
Imagine the droves of consumers that might cancel on day one to take their cable bill from $100 down to $20. This is really stunning that the Canadian government can simply mandate such a change. I doubt the equivalent could happen here in the U.S. until the case made it pass the supreme court, i.e. Comcast et al vs FCC.
In any case it sets up a convenient test bed for U.S. business and consumers. Is it really the end of the world for the operators? The holy grail for consumers? We’ll be watching.
Edit 3-23-15: Changed $20/mo to $25/mo. Some confusion here based on multiple sources. The Multichannel piece has removed the monthly price and other sources say $25.
With the emergence of several other new OTT services, the problem I see is that this is not cord cutting, it is cord trimming , because these new services are relatively expensive. Let’s look at the lineup of major new services going over the top in addition to some old standbys. If the average cable bill is $100 plus, the goal might be to keep the cord trimmer total to a small fraction of that. I’ll assume this time that your internet service is part of the equation since my “$100″ number includes that.
Hulu Plus $7.99
HBO Now $15.00
CBS All Access $5.99
Dish Sling TV $20.00
Of course this is an extreme example which assumes no antenna and some content overlap in our OTT lineup. How can we improve?
The biggest chunk here is your internet service. If you can find a cheaper ISP you’d be on your way but unfortunately most of us don’t have such an option. And that’s the good news for Comcast/TWC still fighting to merge the two companies and become the dominant internet service provider in the U.S.
What else is needed? True a la carte. Of course CBS and HBO are single channel offerings but very pricey ones. Is a single broadcast network really worth $72 per year? Not when the same content is free over the air it’s not. See Antennas.
Cable operators have been telling us for years that a la carte would not save us money, and with the current state of the art they are correct. What would be nice is something like Sling TV but where the customer gets to pick his own 20 channels. Recent news broke about another mini-bundle to be offered by Apple, but like Sling this is probably going to be a take it or leave it package.
So does the emergence of all these OTT bundles signal a a possible breaking point in the current Pay TV model? Or is this just more of the same? Please share your opinion in the comments below…
Damn ABC, are you sure you want anyone to watch this live stream? Why not throw in a few more restrictions like age, income, and citizenship?
I must wonder who ABC is actually targeting here. If you have a cable subscription in the first place then why do you need to watch online?
Proxies and VPN’s: In theory it should be possible to use a proxy, or VPN to access ABC.com and spoof your location to one of the supported markets. Top it off with some borrowed cable credentials and you’re in. Similarly you might try and access ABC via USTVNOW, again combining it with a proxy service. As of this writing I’m still experimenting with these with only partial success. Check back for updates.
Sketchy streaming sites: If you Google “live tv streams” you will find these. And they will drive you nuts wtih a dizzying array of pop-ups, and links that are sometimes hard to close. As I write this on Sunday morning this link from stream2video.tv seems to have a reasonably good feed from some ABC channel.
In any case ABC needs to stop screwing around with this half ass streaming and just make it online for all. If free streaming works for NBC and the Super Bowl, why should it not work for ABC and TV’s Number 2 event?