Business July/August 2013

Cable TV Is Not Going Away

Ideas of the Year 2013
More
Javier Jaén Benavides

We’ve all been waiting for the death of traditional television. As cable prices have risen and streaming options like Netflix and Hulu have proliferated, analysts have predicted the inevitable breakup of the bundle. It’s true that Americans have embraced the new streaming models. Netflix rode its House of Cards buzz to 2 million new U.S. subscribers in the first quarter of this year, making for a total of 29 million—more even than HBO. Relative newcomer Hulu Plus has exceeded 4 million monthly subscribers, and Amazon Prime is investing heavily in streaming rights.

The catch, however, is that many viewers aren’t signing up for these services as an alternative to their cable package. Thanks to the fact that live sports are still available primarily via bundles, fans are paying for streaming TV on top of cable. In fact, the number of multichannel-TV subscribers actually grew in 2012.

Why are we paying so much for television? Because it’s a high-quality product and, even now, a very good deal. The first season of House of Cards, a cinematic epic produced with Oscar-nominated talent, streams for no more than the $8 a month that buys access to Netflix’s thousands of other TV and movie titles. On a cost-per-person-per-minute basis, TV is still cheaper—and, arguably, better—than movies, music, video games, newspapers, or just about any other form of entertainment or news.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In