Television is changing all around us, and it’s getting harder and harder for anyone to deny that. The result is that both consumers and media companies are scrambling to find their way in the new industry landscape. With that process comes a lot of questions. What’s important? How can companies make money in this new environment? What companies will be the big players? And what’s driving these trends? These questions have caused a lot of stress in the television industry, but the answers may in fact be right under our noses.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you watch TV. Whether you watch it on a big screen in your living room, or on your smartphone, whether you get it from your local cable company, or from the internet, that doesn’t matter anymore, and that is at the heart of the matter. As TV viewers, we all know what we want to watch, from our favorite shows and movies, to our preferred source of news, to our hometown sports teams. So when purchasing TV products, once you know what you want to watch, decisions are made towards the goal of getting all of those must-haves in a form that is as convenient and as cheap as possible. For a long time, that has largely meant a choice between expensive cable packages and really expensive cable packages, but now times are changing. CBS and HBO will soon be available outside of cable packages, and others are likely to follow. As frustration grows with cable, and other means of getting content become available, what’s going to be the most sensible way to get the content you want to watch?
As the new era of television is in its infancy, we really don’t know yet. But one thing is clear: we need new aggregators. That’s the role that cable once played, bringing content from multiple sources together in one place for easy access. But as the price of the average cable bill approaches triple digits, and rises faster than inflation each year, consumers are frustrated. In general, they like the one-stop-shop that cable has previously brought to their TV screens, often to the point of creating unrealistic expectations of web TV, but they also want it to be affordable, further complicating efforts to create a next generation TV product. Currently, the businesses that have risen to the forefront and become household names are all content libraries. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and others are often seen as cable replacements, but they’re only libraries of content. Since they compete with each other, they’re all rushing to grab exclusive deals and content, meaning no one can offer everything the way cable does. And as content prices continue to rise, they’ll all take the hit, which will then be passed on to customers. The addition of direct-to-consumer streaming options from HBO, CBS, and other networks will lead to further fragmentation as well.
This creates a wide open space for the rise of aggregators, who like the cable companies, can bring content from these different sources or channels (Netflix, etc. included) together in one place, and make it easy for consumers to access it all. The beauty of aggregators is that they need not own or host any of the content that they offer, they just need to make it easy for consumers to access. The reality is that people don’t care where the content they want to watch comes from. If someone wants to watch a show like Dancing With The Stars, the show itself is what they care about, not the means through which it arrives on their device for viewing. It doesn’t matter that it comes to them on ABC’s network, or via their cable TV provider. That means that a viewer wanting to watch a show would be just as happy to get it from any number of sources, from Netflix, to YouTube, to a network’s own website. Most of today’s popular shows are indeed available online without cable, but most people struggle to find them, as they’re spread across various apps and websites. Obviously videos that are available online for free are cheaper than paying a cable bill to get the shows you want to watch, but it’s not convenient or practical to have to hunt for them.
That’s the essential role that aggregators will play in the future of television. By combining the great savings offered by free and inexpensive content online with the one-stop-shop convenience of cable TV, a company could offer the best of both worlds. That’s exactly what FreeCast Inc does with Rabbit TV Plus, leading the charge towards web-delivered TV. Soon cable won’t be the only way to get everything you want to watch on one screen and in one interface. New aggregators will be able to do so at a fraction of the price.