The Internet is Breaking Traditional TV's Deathgrip

4/03/2014 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments

Traditional media consumption on its way out.  It has been for a while, but it was only recently that the general public had the resources to abandon the anachronistic shackles of the cable TV paradigm dominated Comcast Time Warner duopoly.

The first wave started with music.  Remember when the RIAA was suing everyone all the time?  Napster, WinMX, eDonkey, eMule KaZaA, Limewire, Bearshare, and many other file sharing tools dominated the way everyone got their music.  Was it because it was free?  Partly.  Mostly it was easy.

The man cracked down, though.  Grandma's were being sued for downloading thousands of dollars worth of Gangsta Rap, dead people who had never owned computers were being sued for illegally sharing music, and people who downloaded digital copies of media they already owned physical copies of were pursued for breaking copyright.  The news in the late 90s and early 2000s was filled with people being charged with copyright violation for outrageous amounts of money.

Then, it kind of stopped.  Some cases still pop up, but other than larger cases like Kim Dotcom, you don't hear much about this.  This trend started with the advent of legal (notice the absence of quotations around the word legal) alternatives to listen to music easily.  iTunes made purchasing music and having flexible digital copies as easy as a single click.  Pandora, Grooveshark, Spotify, Rdio, and other internet radios became popular.

Most people don't mind paying for their media.  They just don't want to jump through hoops to get it.  This is evidenced even more with the advent of Netflix Instant.  Following a subscription model, people now had access to stream from a massive movie library.  In just a few short years of video streaming, Netflix now accounts for almost 1/3 of all internet traffic, whereas BitTorrent makes up less than 10%.

There have been easy "legal" (that time there are quotations) streaming services compete against Netflix for free, but just can't stay open.  Once again, it's not (solely) about price.  People will pay for their content if it's easy.  Netflix is easy.

We've heard the term "cord cutters" for years now, but 2013 marked the first time pay TV services had a net decrease in subscriber count.  Ever.  Pay TV is too inflexible.  Comcast and Time Warner want everyone to run their schedule around their TV Guide subscription and purchase additional content through Pay-per-view.

When you have the option to have your media consumption controlled by someone else's schedule for an average of over $100 a month or consume as much as you want, whenever you want for the cost of an internet subscription and $8/month for Netflix (or Amazon Prime, or Redbox Instant, or Hulu Plus, etc).

2013 may go down as the tipping point of the cable TV deathgrip on content.  Netflix shows are winning awards, people are cutting cords, and the next generation is even abandoning the traditional television set in favor of laptops and tablets.

It'll be a long way out, but but the trend is starting.  We are witnessing the technological democratization of content sourcing and it is only going to be perpetuated with time.

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