Are TV Channels Finally Dead?

Over the past few years, the way in which we access television shows has completely changed. You no longer need to tune in to a specific network at a specific time in order to watch your favorite show. In fact, you don’t even need to own a television to watch it!

Thanks to improvements in technology and global internet speeds, more people have been able to access streaming platforms. Instead of tuning into How to Get Away With Murder the night that the episode airs on ABC, for example, you can watch the entire season in a few days’ time when it arrives on Netflix. Or maybe you missed the season premiere of Game of Thrones when it aired on TV. Not to worry, because HBO’s streaming service, HBO NOW will add it to its on-demand platform soon after so you don’t have to miss out. Some other popular streaming platforms include Hulu, Amazon Prime Video (the streaming platform offered by e-commerce giant Amazon), and even YouTube with its premium streaming service, YouTube Red.

But how popular are these platforms exactly? And what does the phenomenal success of platforms like these mean for traditional TV channels? Could we potentially see traditional TV channels cease to exist?

How Many People Use Streaming Platforms?

The reason why so many people are asking about the future of traditional TV channels in the first place is that such a big percentage of audiences is now using streaming services. As of January 2018, Netflix had 118 million subscribers internationally – and this figure of paid users continues to grow. The January 2018 figure included the 8.3 million subscribers who had joined the platform in the previous quarter, which in turn includes the 1.9 million domestic subscribers and the 6.4 million international subscribers. For comparison, the United States has 94 million paid subscribers to traditional TV channels.

Netflix may be the biggest streaming service on the block, but its competitors also have millions of users. HBO NOW had five million subscribers as of February 2018 and Hulu had more than one million users as of September 2018. Amazon Prime has 90 million subscribers and while it’s unclear exactly how many of these Prime subscribers are only subscribed for the delivery benefits or the benefits of Twitch (the Amazon-owned game live-streaming platform), that’s a lot of people with access to the Amazon video content. When you also consider that many people consider themselves “cordcutters,” i.e people who don’t pay for any TV at all and only watch TV through streaming services, you start to realize just how big of a deal these platforms are.

Why Are These Streaming Platforms So Big?

A big factor in the Netflix vs television debate and the success of streaming as a whole is that streaming platforms are far cheaper than traditional TV subscriptions. A basic Netflix subscription costs just $8 a month, which is phenomenal value considering what you get. The platform has thousands of TV shows (and movies) and while you also have to pay for an internet subscription (or a mobile data plan) to gain access, this still seems far more affordable than traditional TV. It’s also no coincidence that it tends to be cash-strapped millennials who consider themselves cordcutters, as they’re trendsetters believed to influence the rest of the public too.

Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that many streaming services offer TV shows that you just can’t access anywhere else. Netflix has the likes of Orange is the New Black, The Crown, Bojack Horseman, Big Mouth, and Stranger Things. The Crown even won an Emmy during the 2018 awards show, while many other Netflix shows have taken home awards in the past. Likewise, Amazon Prime Video has The Handmaid’s Tale and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – two more Emmy-winning shows. That these services and shows are available internationally, on multiple devices (including mobile devices and games consoles) while traditional TV channels are region-locked is another example of how streaming has gained success.

How Can Traditional TV Compete?

When it comes to traditional TV versus streaming platforms, there is no contest. The attraction of accessibility, price, and the content on offer totally eclipse the appeal of tradition. It’s tough for traditional TV to complete on any grounds – not when Amazon and Netflix have the billions (literally, billions) of dollars to spend on new content to keep chipping away at that traditional TV viewership.

The smart move would be for traditional TV networks to join up and form there own streaming platforms, together, using the collective draw of their respective shows and brands to seriously compete with streaming. Because in this day and age, traditional TV networks are no longer competing with each other and successfully fighting back means they’ll have to work together.

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