Outside editorial: No, Internet won't kill the video star

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010

The following editorial first appeared in the Dallas Morning News:

At this rate, the cable guy is running out of excuses for being so late. An increasing number of American households are cutting the cable, and they aren't defecting en masse to other providers, such as satellite or phone-companies-turned-TV operations.

For example, Time Warner and Comcast lost a combined 430,000 subscribers in the third quarter of this year - more than double the losses from the same period last year. Company executives say this is merely a sign of a bad economy. Plus, when analog TV broadcasts ended last year, cable companies offered special introductory rates, and those rates just expired. Time Warner also points out that many of the customers it's losing don't even have access to high-speed Internet.

Why should you care?

Because the alternative explanation is pretty cool. Techno-geeks suggest the exodus has a lot to do with the fact that people don't need cable to watch their required hours and hours of TV. For example, videos streaming online from Netflix now account for the largest chunk of primetime Internet traffic.

Folks are watching new releases, classic movies and episodes of that edgy HBO series they heard so much about at work. All for a lot less per month than they paid for cable. They are streaming this content over 55-inch plasma-screen televisions in their media rooms and on their laptops at Starbucks. They access it through home-theater systems, game consoles and even most new TVs. They create low-cost accounts with Netflix, Zune, iTunes, Amazon or even Blockbuster, the locally based video and gaming giant that is going full throttle into the on-demand world as it works its way through bankruptcy.

All of this is happening against a backdrop of annoying dust-ups between networks and TV providers. For example, Dish Network and Fox Networks recently played a game of chicken, with sports fans caught in the middle. AT&T and Scripps Networks just ended a showdown that will return endless versions of house-hunting shows to TV screens far and wide.

Given viewers' frustration with changing subscription plans and lineup battles, hopeful geeks can't help but wonder: Will the Internet kill TV?

Well, it hasn't killed the recording industry, the news industry or the postal service. But it has changed all of them, and it will continue to change the way people get their TV fix.

Really, there are only two things we can know for sure: We'll keep getting more and better options for where, when and how we choose to watch TV and movies. And no matter how few customers satellite, DSL or cable TV providers have, the repair man will still show up two hours after the four-hour window you were given when you called customer service.

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