Why High Speed Internet is No Threat for Traditional TV (yet).

Tanner | Jul 14, 2011

For the past 10 years cable TV has been in danger. Or so they say. Millions of people around the world have decided to switch to TV alternatives like iTunes and Amazon video or streaming services through Netflix or Hulu in hopes of cuttingtheir expenses. Dubbed “cable cutters,” many of these individuals are finding that online entertainment services provide just enough shows or movies to justify the switch from standard cable TV or Dish. Maybe you’re one of those people (in all likelihood: you are). But what does the switch to online services mean for traditional TV? At this point: nothing. There is no danger yet. Looking at the full scope of what’s happening as people switch from traditional TV to online services, you can start to see some interesting and unexpected things. Recently the Nielsen Company – the global marketing and advertising research company that tracks things like ratings, viewership and more – conducted a study commonly known as the Three Screen Report. The Three Screen Report looks at media usage across, well, 3 screens: TV’s, computers and mobile devices. While Nielsen has shown that TV consumption on mobile and computers has increased, regular television viewing has also increased (by about 22 minutes per month last year). So it seams that as a whole we are watching more TV any which way we can get it. While it’s clear that the old-fashioned “TV set” (a big monitor sitting in the middle of your living room) is quickly becoming a commodity for those who have excess room in their homes or cash to burn through, TV entertainment (the shows and media we’ve been watching for decades) hasn’t changed. People want their entertainment, just as they always have, but they want it in a way that is easy for them to use anywhere and that’s affordable too. Unfortunately the internet has yet to become the source for reliable, quality entertainment. Not right now anyway. High speed internet access is still not 100%. That is to say: it goes down or breaks or has buffering issues, a lot. It’s 2011 and I still find myself having to reset my modem at least once or twice a week because my internet access cut out. And 3G cell phone service? There’s not even an argument here, cell service today is as reliable as TV broadcasts in the early 80s: shaky at best. And if you’re trying to watch a show on Hulu or Netflix or YouTube you have to wait quite a while for the video stream to buffer. That stinks. Most ISP’s have found it difficult to scale their infrastructures to compensate for the soaring bandwidth needs of their customers. To compensate, many providers will throttle your speeds during peak usage hours, or might even throttle your speeds if they feel you are using too much internet (is there really such thing as too much internet?). On the other hand, cable TV service is almost always there, ready for you to connect with and watch any time of the day. Granted: cable service isn’t everywhere you are, it’s the most reliable form of TV entertainment you can get today. Eventually wifi and cell technology will catch up and even overlap the quality and reliability of cable TV, but for now we’re not even close. The Nielsen Three Screen Report included some very beautiful and impossible to understand “graphic visualizations,” that more or less indicate, as best we can read them, that the more time and individual spends streaming media, the less time they spend watching it on traditional TV. Which makes sense. If I’ve already seen this weeks episode of “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” on Hulu, I don’t need to catch a rerun of it on my TV. So when you hear about traditional TV being in danger of becoming extinct or something like that, nod your head but do so knowing that things aren’t changing as quickly as some may want you to believe. Little is changing in terms of TV service right now. Good old-fashioned TV is still the best way to watch some kick ass entertainment. There is no buffering and unless you have a dish setup outside in a powerful rain storm, you aren’t going to lose the broadcast randomly. Photo: Netflix buffering.


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