×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Streaming Services Should Be a Part of Pay TV (Guest Column)

The rapid growth of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon has created a two-tier system of content. It’s also created a two-tier system in our living rooms, where traditional cable and broadcast channels are accessed via a set-top box while streaming channels are accessed via a Roku box, never the twain to meet.

That’s unfortunate, because integrating the two competing systems into a single interface may be exactly what the industry needs to survive.

Creating an elegant interface that combines streaming services and pay-TV services, so that Netflix and NBC both live on the same grid, would go a long way towards improving TV’s user experience. It would also benefit all parties, from networks and MVPDs to streaming services. But most of all, it would benefit the consumer.

MVPDs would love to be able to offer popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to their customers, particularly as promotional devices, much in the way they currently offer HBO and Showtime. (You know, subscribe now and get three months free HBO. Substitute Netflix for HBO and you’ve got a compelling offer.) It’s a great way to create stickiness too, as subscribers are less likely to switch (or cut the cord) if they’re getting everything from the same provider.

Integrating streaming services also gives the MVPDs the perfect opportunity to upgrade their set-top box interfaces, most of which look like they were designed sometime during the Clinton Administration. Whether that integration happens on a traditional set-top box or on a new streaming box, it will go a long way towards helping consumers feel they are getting the quality of service they are paying for.

That’s a huge problem, because as the gap between cost and service widens, consumers feel like they are paying Nordstrom prices for K-Mart service. That perception only helps to amplify the current wave of dissatisfaction with pay-TV–if the user experience was in line with the price point, viewers might be more forgiving of things like overstuffed bundles full of channels they don’t watch.

For the streaming services, the benefits are clear. They’ll get the MVPD’s sales and marketing teams actively selling subscriptions for them, along with additional brand recognition every time an MVPD runs an ad mentioning their name. Integration also solidifies the streaming services position as part of the official television ecosystem, putting them on par with broadcast and cable networks.

Networks will also benefit from streaming integration. Right now, too many viewers fire up their streaming devices and rely on Netflix or Hulu to watch TV for the evening. An integrated program guide would put the network’s offerings in theses viewers line of sight, driving tune-in by making it easier to switch between linear, streaming, VOD and DVR. Similarly, having network shows and streaming shows show up together in search results and on recommendation and “watch lists” allows viewers to think of them as one and the same, rather than two separate entities.

The real winner, however, will be the viewer. Having all their TV options in a single interface is a major plus, especially for viewers who make use of a variety of live and streaming options. Stylish, more personalized interfaces would also be a huge win, turning what’s now a major pain point into an enjoyable and useful experience.

While this may all sound like an analyst’s pipe dream, streaming integration is already starting to happen. Cablevision is selling Hulu directly to its customers and the service is integrated into Cablevision’s program guide. Google Fiber doesn’t sell Netflix, but the service is integrated into the program guide there too. Word has it that Netflix and Hulu are both actively pursuing these sorts of deals, starting with smaller MVPDs and working their way up.

Streaming integration may not fit into Silicon Valley’s “TV Is Dead” narrative, but given that it seems to benefit everyone in the current ecosystem from viewers to networks to the streaming services themselves, that narrative may itself be dead. How’s that for a plot twist.

Alan Wolk is a noted industry analyst and author of “Over The Top. How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry”

More TV

  • STRANGER THINGS

    'Stranger Things 3' Is Most-Watched Season to Date, Netflix Says

    The Upside Down delivered upside for Netflix in the third quarter: “Stranger Things” season 3 was the most-watched season of the series to date, according to the streamer. In the first four weeks of release, “Stranger Things” season 3 was watched by 64 million member households, Netflix said in the Q3 letter to shareholders. The [...]

  • HBO Max - WarnerMedia

    HBO Max Orders LGBTQ Movement Docuseries From Producers Jim Parsons, Greg Berlanti

    HBO Max has commissioned a four-part docuseries on the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. Titled “Equal,” the series will explore the true stories of leaders and activists of the movement. Each hour-long episode will feature interviews, reenactments, and never before seen footage. The series hails from Warner Horizon Unscripted Television. “We are extremely proud to [...]

  • Dead To Me

    Streaming Shows Nearly Doubled in Last Year, Boosting Los Angeles TV Production

    Television production in Los Angeles has received a major boost from streaming shows, according to a new report from the permitting organization FilmLA. The number of new digital projects nearly doubled between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 development cycles, increasing approximately 85.3% in a year. The number of digitally distributed original series in production has increased by [...]

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

  • Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Cory Booker,

    TV Ratings: Fourth Democratic Debate Draws 8.3 Million Viewers

    Last night’s Democratic debate, which saw frontrunner Elizabeth Warren come under attack from all sides, drew around 8.3 million total viewers on CNN. That viewership figure is down 46% on the first NBC debate which was watched by 15.3 million viewers, and also on the two previous CNN debates which garnered 10.7 million (down 22%) [...]

  • All That Nickelodeon logo

    'All That' Revival Scores 13 More Episodes at Nickelodeon

    The “All That” revival at Nickelodeon just got twice as big. Nickelodeon has issued an order for 13 more episodes of the new spin on the ’90s sketch comedy show, taking the total episode count for season 1 of the revival to 26. Variety reported exclusively back in February that an “All That” revival was in [...]

  • Brian Koppelman and David Levien Billions

    'Billions' Creators to Develop 'Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber' Series at Showtime

    Brian Koppelman and David Levien are developing a limited series about ridesharing company Uber for Showtime. The “Billions” creators and showrunners will serve as writers and executive producers on the series, which will be based on Mike Isaac’s book “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.” Isaac will serve as co-executive producer on the project, which [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content