Shaving the cord

Shaving the cord: The future of internet TV or cable by another name?

Cord cutters are a proud group. If you do a quick Twitter search you’ll see hundreds of people that see snubbing the cable TV company as a badge of honour or, dare I say, even a way of life. But for many more, the idea of leaving traditional cable TV behind has more to do with their wallet than it has to do with “sticking it to the man.”

Cord cutting means completely cancelling cable TV and moving to internet-based streaming services and antenna-based local TV. But there are cases that aren’t so clear. There seems to be a new blurry area of media consumption that is rearing its head. It sometimes involves some of the same large corporate players that have for so long dominated the TV space. And it is starting to combine the idea of on-demand content with the admittedly comfortable couch-surfing-friendly cable TV we have all become to love and expect.

The missing piece: Channel surfing

I haven’t had full-blown cable TV for almost a decade. And to be honest I don’t really miss it all that much. But last year when I moved into a building that was offering a free 6 months of HD cable, I said “Why not?” So for half a year I had access to pretty much everything. Basic channels, HBO, live sports, disgustingly strange TLC shows…  You name it. The verdict: I still hate most TV programming. After the six month trial I immediately packed the cable boxes up and dropped them off on the counter at my local cable provider.

But there is one nagging thing that leaves me, a self-proclaimed cord cutter, a bit wanting. It’s the ability to just flick on the TV and veg out. No thinking, just consume what is on without really knowing what I need to search for. It sounds dumb, but that experience is something I have missed since ditching that 6 month cable subscription.

It seems that a lot of people in decision-making roles at start-ups and even large telecom companies understand the yearning of consumers on this one. Dish Network is now offering their Sling TV service for a reasonable price of $20 a month (for the basic package). PlutoTV is offering a really great free internet TV service that curates interesting content from across the web and assembles it into a much more “live-TV-like” interface. And even Apple is rumoured to be launching a brand new Apple TV platform in September that will surely involve some form of live-TV subscription. And in North America there have been more and more calls for slimmed down cable TV packages that allow consumers to only pay for what they actually watch.

All the signs are there. Consumers and TV providers alike are both ready push into the next era of TV. It’s not quite cord cutting. It’s more like “cord shaving.”  Bringing live TV to consumers in a much more targeted way, over the internet.

Shaving the cord

Watching together is a powerful thing

I don’t necessarily see this trend of providing “cord shaving” services as the death rattle of the cable TV industry. People want to be able to surf channels. But perhaps more importantly, there is something to the idea of watching a show communally. Netflix loves to tout the merits of binge-watching shows. And I’m not one to disagree. But an equally powerful way of consuming content is watching together. There is something sort of comforting in the fact that when I am wasting my evening watching Bachelor in Paradise (I can’t stop watching) that there are thousands more that are sharing in that activity. It is a group watching dynamic that gives me a sense of shared community.

Even PlutoTV’s app has provided this feeling of community for me. When I admittedly watched episode 1-4 of R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet on PlutoTV’s platform, I knew that hundreds of others were sharing in this self destructive act. And it was a good feeling.

Yes, this is a real channel on PlutoTV. And yes, I watched 4 parts...

Yes, this is a real channel on PlutoTV. And yes, I watched 4 parts…

It’s the same with live sports. Nobody likes having to PVR a game and watch it the next day. The magic is gone by then. You know in your heart that everyone else has already seen that touchdown… that bench clearing brawl…  that messed up national anthem attempt by Roseanne.

Long live live TV. Long live shaving the cord.

The next Apple TV

Everyone is talking about all of the tech specs around a new potential Apple TV. Will it be the new A8 chip?  Will it have a touchscreen on it’s remote? To be honest, I’m more intrigued with how Apple is wooing TV companies to buy into a new model, or at least new-ish model, of TV programming.

No one knows for sure, but there are rumours that the new Apple TV platform will incorporate access to content that as of right now is relatively locked down by TV providers.  For a rumoured $40, Apple is targeting their new service to the next generation of cord cutters…  er cord shavers… But will it go down the SlingTV route, and literally give a window into live television? Or are they going to setup an overarching streaming TV service that deals the deathblow to cable companies once and for all? Only time will tell. But if there is one company that can popularize the cord-shaving approach to media consumption for the masses, it’s Apple. Like them or not, these are the guys that changed the way we consume music almost overnight.

Shaving is the new cutting

I for one think that cable TV will hang around a little while longer. Like I said, people want to be able to surf channels. And they certainly want to be able to have a communal viewing experience with things like sports and to some extent mainstream TV.

We won’t be seeing the average person fully cut the cord anytime soon. Instead, we’ll see services that satiate the above two needs in different ways. Ethernet will supplant coax, but the fundamentals of TV will last. That is, unless Apple decides to rebuild another industry…

So keep shaving away at that cord. Who knows, you might wake up someday and cable companies will be a thing of the past…

Happy cord cutting!