Are Millennials Missing Out By Getting Rid of Cable?
Today's generation of young adults are increasingly choosing free or low-cost entertainment delivered over the Internet instead of the traditional cable subscriptions that their parents had. Millennials, also called Generation Y, are adults between the ages of 18 and 34, and they represent a growing number of entertainment consumers who have entirely abandoned traditional cable services such as Comcast and Time Warner, opting instead for streaming services like Hulu and Netflix.
How the Cable Industry Is Handling the Shift
In general, people in the cable industry are philosophical about the changes, and many providers have adapted to the new market dynamics by offering lower-cost, customizable cable subscriptions, such as Sling TV from Dish Network. The explanation for millennials abandoning cable and seeking entertainment exclusively from free or low-cost streaming services is that they simply don't earn as much money as their parents yet and are looking for ways to make their paychecks last longer.
Industry insiders, such as Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins, say that millennials will return to traditional cable subscriptions as they get older and earn higher salaries, but not everyone agrees with this outlook. Commentator Craig Moffett argues that millennials have a completely different attitude than their parents, and they won't come back to Comcast and Time Warner just because they have kids and start making more money.
What Does It Mean for Millennials?
The question then becomes, "Are millennials missing out by abandoning cable subscriptions and choosing to watch free videos on YouTube and Vimeo instead?" There is certainly a lot of high-quality content on cable stations such as HBO and AMC, and the days when television was empty of any artistic value are gone. In the past, it could have been called a good thing for people to stop watching TV, but in the present, switching from HBO to YouTube is probably a significant step down in terms of substance.
However, the new generation of streaming services have dipped their toes in the content-providing waters, and Netflix and Amazon have had success producing original shows like Orange is the New Black and Transparent. The cost of producing content hasn't changed significantly over the past couple of decades, other than to decrease predictably as technology has improved. The cost of delivering content has decreased dramatically as the Internet has allowed people to stream content directly to their televisions, and the truth is that it just doesn't make sense for millennials to get cable subscriptions when they can simply hook up Netflix or Hulu to their wide-screen plasma TVs.
How the Alternatives Rate Against Traditional Cable
A lot of comments have been made about these video-streaming services upsetting the industry, but even though people are watching lower-cost Hulu or Netflix instead of expensive HBO, the quality of the content is not equal between these two choices. The old adage “You get what you pay for” applies to this scenario, and Netflix, Hulu and Amazon viewers are having to make do with older shows and movies that aren't as popular or highly rated as the content aired on premium cable channels.
In general, higher-quality entertainment gives producers more bargaining leverage when negotiating distribution rights, and anyone with a Netflix membership knows that 60 percent of the content available for streaming is made of corny B-movies from the 1970s and 1980s. It's filler content, and since maybe 1 percent of the audience is interested in watching it, the rest of the viewers have to spend time sifting through the titles for suitable viewing.
How Many Awful YouTube Videos Are Enough?
The situation on YouTube is much worse in terms of finding high-quality content, but YouTube isn't meant to be a substitute for cable service. The idea behind YouTube is brilliant and revolutionary, and it has changed the cultural landscape forever. Anyone can publish their own content, and it has made stars out of many ordinary people. Basically, the end result of all this sifting through unwatchable content is that people get bored and their lives become less meaningful and enriched.
It's an individual's choice whether or not to sit in front of a computer screen clicking on terrible videos, but because it's a large-scale shift in popular thinking, it affects people whether they know it or not. It's hard not to notice how seriously boring it is to watch people in their bedrooms singing cover versions of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga songs, and eventually, most millennials will figure out that they should do something else. Whether they will decide to buy cable subscriptions remains to be seen, but they will undoubtedly develop an aversion to low-quality entertainment, which is probably a good thing. Maybe it's bad that people consume so much entertainment junk food when they're young, but if it teaches them to appreciate better acting, storytelling and production values, it will have a good outcome.