This has been a busy week, and while those of us attending the Mobile World Congress were swamped with mobile everything, back in the US people calmly continued watching TV.
Just fewer than ever before, apparently.
The percentage of homes not using a TV at all doubled between 2009 and 2015, according to the US Department of Energy's US Energy Information Administration's Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) survey. In 2009, just 1.3% of respondents reported not having a TV according to the survey, but in 2015, that percentage doubled to 2.6%.
Furthermore, the number of TVs per home has also declined over the same period, from an average of 2.6 TVs per home in 2009 to 2.3 TVs per home in 2015.
As you would expect, younger households tended to have fewer TVs and more portable devices, such as laptops and smartphones. Makes sense, right? Why buy junior a TV for his room when he's mostly watching video on his tablet, laptop or smartphone?
But what does that mean for services such as Ultra HD? We know its visual quality is not a huge improvement over HD unless the display screen is 55-60 inches, and there's not many 55-inch laptops for obvious reasons. Faced with declining TV ownership, should service providers even bother with offering it?
Or is it even more important now, because it's the only way to attract people back to watching their big TV screen?
To add to this, analyst Craig Moffet of MoffettNathanson LLC reported earlier this week that "the Pay TV business (as defined by traditional providers) ended 2016 shrinking at 1.7% per year, its fastest rate of decline ever. Moreover, the rate of acceleration in Q4 – 40 bps – was the fastest quarterly acceleration on record."
As if on cue, the third blow to traditional TV arrived: the launch of YouTube's skinny bundle. YouTube Inc. unveiled its 40-channel, $35 per month streaming package. It offers the four major broadcast networks, as well as such major cable networks as Bravo, the Disney Channel, E!, Fox News, FX, MSNBC, Sprout and USA Network. And it has the major sports providers ESPN, Fox Sports Network and others. (See Will YouTube TV Hit OTT Sweet Spot?)
The contract-free service is available on a wide range of devices and offers unlimited DVR recordings, available for nine months via a broad range of devices.
Still, as my colleague Alan Breznick rightly points out in his Light Reading article, this isn't necessarily a slam-dunk for YouTube. Firstly, it still doesn’t have some extremely popular channels, such as CNN, AMC Networks, Discovery Communications, TBS, TNT, A&E Networks, MTV, Comedy Central and HBO. And it faces a number of other skinny competitors in Sling TV from Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Vue from PlayStation and DirecTV Now from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), as well as the highly anticipated skinny bundle from Hulu.
But wait, there's more! (As they say on many fine home shopping networks).
A new study from The Nielsen Co. came out earlier today. Its first Millennials on Millennials report found that millennials are spending 27% less time watching traditional TV than viewers above 35. Instead, 23% of their video consumption was via TV-connected devices (such as Roku or Chromecast) and a further 11% was done on a PC, smartphone or laptop.
Whew! You would have to agree disruption and change beat out traditional TV pretty soundly this week. Even Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said he watches shows on his smartphone. What hope is there for old-school TV?
But it's worth noting that, according to Moffett's numbers, 96.5 million US households are still traditional pay-TV subscribers, while Sling (the leading skinny bundle provider) has less than 1.2 million subscribers. And according to the same report referenced earlier from Nielsen, 66% of millennial video consumption is still via traditional TV.
So while the trend towards cord-cutting keeps getting clearer, it's still going to take a lot of bad weeks like this to wipe out pay-TV.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation