Online VS On TV: Is Cable Becoming Obsolete?
An American home without a TV and/or any other electronic device in this day and age is unheard of. However, it is not unheard of for families and individuals these days to ditch their cable and watch their favorite shows and movies through streaming services instead. Streaming services in recent years, namely Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video have proven to be more effective by allowing customers to stream and watch shows at any time. Because more consumers choose to switch to streaming services as opposed to watching traditional TV, is cable becoming obsolete?
Television itself was such a huge deal when it was introduced. It has changed and dominated our lives throughout the last several decades. Television has proven to be one of the most influential inventions in history. Before 1947, only a few thousand sets were owned in the country. By the late 1990s, 98% of American homes owned at least one TV and watched on average more than 7 hours of TV a day. A typical American individual watches at least 2.5-5 hours of TV a day.
The first electronic TV was successfully demonstrated in San Francisco on September 7, 1927. Philo Taylor Farnsworth is often the one credited with starting up the concept of television. As a high school student Farnsworth conceived images moving in a form coded in radio waves transformed back onto a screen. Despite Farnsworth mostly being credited with the invention of television, Boris Rosing of Russia experimented transmitting images sixteen years earlier than the debut of Farnsworth’s invention. John Logie Baird of England and Charles Francis Jenkins of the U.S. created a rotating disk with holes that could transfer images earlier in the 1920s. However, Farnsworth’s invention is still credited as the direct ancestor of modern TV.
RCA, the dominating radio business in the U.S., invested $50 million to develop television. In 1939 RCA televised the opening of New York’s World’s Fair. An image of then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt appearing on sets was also part of the broadcast, making him the first president to appear on television. RCA later began making and selling 5×12 inch TV sets. The first televised baseball game appeared on May 17, 1939. In 1941 CBS broadcasting began to release two 15 minute newscasts daily to tiny audiences. The number of TV stations began to grow in 1949, and two years earlier full-scale television broadcasting began. In the beginning there were only three major networks: CBS, ABC, and NBC. In 1951 12 million American homes had television, and by 1955 half of all American homes had TV. Color broadcast on prime time began in 1964. Television would also shape how Americans would catch up on politics-most notably the Presidential Campaign of 1960, and the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.
History of Cable Television, and Development of New Cable/Non-Cable Networks
The first cable services were available in 1948. Cable broadcast channels were available in parts of Oregon, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania. By 1960, major metropolitan areas were demanding for cable. By 1980, all major programming services were on NCTA (National Cable and Telecommunications Association). By 1990, 57% of U.S. households had access to Cable with 79 networks. The trial of O.J. Simpson, broadcast in ’95, showed the strong hold of cable on audiences. Broadband was introduced in 1996. HD TV first appeared in 1997-and by this time the internet was beginning to take hold in many households. In 1998, there were 171 cable networks available. In 2000, 65 million Americans subscribed to cable. In 2012 800 networks were available-and 93% of Americans now had access to cable. 900+ networks were available by 2014. By 2016, $341 billion had been invested in programming (since ’96) and cable’s internet speed had gone up to 26BPS (bits per second). By the mid-2000s, 115 million households had access to ultra-fast broadband networks. High definition TV, Digital phone services, and high-speed internet became widely available throughout the U.S.
Throughout the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, new TV networks would also appear-for both cable and non-cable viewers. Non-cable networks included PBS (1970) Fox (1989) and UPN (1995). Cable Networks appearing in the ‘70s included HBO (1972), C-Span (1977) Nickelodeon (1979) and ESPN (1979). Cable networks MTV, CNN, USA Network, and BET Networks would soon follow.TV ratings first appeared in the mid 90s and the V-chip was also soon embedded in TV sets, meaning parents could block certain shows they felt unsuitable for their children.
How Did Home Media Change The Way People Watch Shows and Movies?
In the ‘70s and ‘80s Betamax, the VCR, and in the 2000s the DVR appeared. DVD players would also become common in the early to mid 2000s. These inventions massively changed the way we watch TV and movies. Viewers could now record their favorite shows and movies and watch them at any time. The VCR and DVR also allowed viewers to fast-forward or skip commercials. They could also buy/rent movies on Beta, VHS, DVD etc. and watch them whenever. People now had fewer limits as to how/when they could watch films and shows. They would have even fewer limits once streaming sites would arrive on scene, as would apps that would allow a consumer to watch a movie or show anywhere on any electronic device.
Are More Viewers Streaming Their Shows Now?
Despite the influence of cable tv over the years, research shows that less youth are watching traditional TV, instead streaming the films and shows they watch. DVR and other “recordings” of shows only represent a fraction of live viewings. Live TV viewing averaged 15 hours and 11 minutes per week. DVR and time shifting viewing averaged 1 hour and 11 minutes per week. Traditional viewing by 18-34 year-olds fell 34% between 2011 and 2015 (by 1/3). Teens (12-17 year-olds) averaged 15 hours and 36 minutes per week, a 14.5% drop. Older millennials (25-34) averaged 23 hours and 12 minutes per week. Generation Xers (35-49) averaged 31 hours and 25 minutes resulting in a 3% decrease. 50-64 year-olds averaged 42 hours and 59 minutes per week, a 1.1% increase. Seniors 65+ and up averaged 50 hours and 53 minutes per week, and 8% increase since 2011. Those 65+ only recorded 2 quarters of decline in traditional TV viewings in 5 years. This masks the large decline of traditional TV viewings by younger Americans. These statistics also show that streaming is now the primary form of viewing shows and movies for younger generations. 39% of 19-25 year-olds have been found to mostly stream what they watch while 29% are primarily watching traditional TV. 31% of 26-32 year-olds mostly stream what they watch, while 28% watch more traditional TV. 13-24 year-olds mostly view their content “free” or subscribe digitally rather than watch TV. Overall, media usage of 18-34 year-olds has been growing. They have also been shown to use TV connected devices 3.3 days per week-while adults average 2.9 days per week. 18-34 year olds use connected devices up to 7+ hours per week.
Arguments show that media habits do change upon starting family. Few 18-24 year-olds have been inclined to get pay TV once living on their own. Dependent adults are more likely to have DVR, DVDs, and PCs. Millennials “on their own” are more likely to have multimedia devices and on demand. Millennials with their own place tend to adopt multimedia. These results are from a mix of mostly surveying both young and old millennials. The amount of those who still have cable are mostly dependent adults. TV-connected devices are more common with those who do not have kids. Millennials who have kids may fall into similar patterns.
Popular Streaming Shows
A major reason why streaming services have been on the rise in recent years is due to quality content and greater convenience at a much lower cost. Popular, innovative shows have been appearing left and right on sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video. House of Cards, Transparent and The Man in the High Castle are just a few notable examples. Transparent, a show from Amazon Studios, offers glimpses of in-depth family issues, such as sexuality, gender, divorce, and drugs. Jeffrey Tambor, who portrays the protagonist, a Transgender woman, has won an award for Outstanding Actor for Best Drama of 2015. Marvel’s Jessica Jones premiered on Netflix on November 20, 2015. Krysten Ritter plays the titular character, a short-tempered, snarky detective in New York City who suffers from PTSD. What makes this show so intriguing is how it deals with issues like consent and power, while fleshing out such dimensional characters-most notably Jones herself. Orange is the New Black, also on Netflix, recounts the happenings of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) when she is serving a 15 month sentence in prison for smuggling a suitcase full of drug money. Things take a turn for the worst when Piper’s former lover, Alex (Laura Prepon), becomes her prison-mate, creating such a complex and relatable drama. Streaming services are on the rise as they have a variety of shows to offer with complex characters and identifiable circumstances.
With streaming viewers can now watch both new and old TV shows of their choice. It is easy to binge watch shows, and these services have shown to be flexible for young adults. Netflix and Amazon have eliminated ads (Although the DVR can do this too, they are more expensive). Consumers can save hundreds by opting for streaming rather than cable services. One conflict, however would be that many viewers still tend to enjoy cable shows that may be unavailable for streaming.
Rising Concern of Pirating Shows
One issue that many networks have had to deal with the rise of streaming is piracy. Quick demand for certain shows and movies has been on the rise. Mobiles and other electronic devices in recent years have made pirating easier than ever before. HBO’s Game of Thrones has been reported to be the highest pirated TV show of all time. In 2015, 1.6 million illegal downloads of episodes of the show occurred in a span of just 4 weeks. It accounts for ¼ of all pirate downloads from the top 100 torrent sites. The first 4 episodes of Season 5 were leaked online in 2015. One episode was illegally downloaded 2.2+ million times. HBO is beginning to take steps to reduce this issue by sending copyright infringements to alleged pirates, and to take down torrents for pirating HBO content. Warnings will also be sent to IP addresses of torrent users caught sharing episodes. HBO has already sent take down notices to some torrent sites like Torrent Freak, which are already complying. People will also be directed to sites where they can legally obtain episodes of HBO shows. Steps are also being taken so pirates would have to wait for episodes to air on TV before they can be downloaded.
What Will Be the Future of Entertainment?
Overall, it is truly amazing to think of how much TV has impacted the way Americans have gotten their entertainment. Cable and streaming have especially influenced entertainment for people. It is a truly a fascinating history and is crazy to think of how much has changed in how Americans have gotten their shows in the past 60-70 years. It is also insane to think of what will replace streaming and pirating 10-20+ years from now. Traditional TV as we know it may be completely obsolete within the next several years.
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