Where is TV headed?
The Future. That’s the million-dollar question running through every media executive’s mind these days. Most agree there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for the business, as people’s TV consumption habits are constantly changing. Because consumers usually decide what to watch based on how they feel, networks must provide highly specialized content to grow and maintain their subscriber base. Without it, they may not be able to survive.
CNBC asked media insiders, including Barry Diller, Bela Bajaria, Jeff Zucker, and Bill Simmons, to predict what TV will be like in three years.
- Legacy cable TV will shrink but not die. The number of subscribers will decline, and the average age of the viewers will increase. More scripted programming will migrate to streaming. Because the four major broadcasters — ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC — have locked up the NFL for the next 11 years, people will still tune in for sports. But fragmentation hurts the leagues’ ability to maintain mass engagement.
- Netflix, Prime Video, Apple, and the Disney suite will definitely still exist. More or less, every current platform will still be around — just with fewer employees and less original content.
- Bundling makes sense from a consumer perspective (paying one rate is easier), but most media companies don’t want intermediaries controlling their audiences and determining the value of their programming. Streamers like to own the relationship with the consumer — which they would have to give up for bundling. Still, it’s cumbersome to go in and out of each app. Streaming needs to develop a user interface that lets the viewer seamlessly enter and exit content.
- A “metaverse” that offers commerce, gaming, social interaction, sports, news, and entertainment could become a TV standard that doesn’t exist today — as could the ability to gamble while watching sports on TV with a voice-activated remote control.
Hazy crystal ball
Even with the erosion of the cable TV bundle, many networks (independent of streaming) still generate hundreds of millions of dollars in profit — even if it’s declining profit.
Media execs anticipate those that don’t substantially contribute to the bottom line will shut down, while those that still have earning potential will merge with other networks.
The fate of the TV industry really lies in the consumer’s hands, so may the network that best engages the consumer win.