Image via Mike Mozart/Flickr CC
The pay TV market is evolving. This is putting pressure on cable TV leaders. Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast (CMCSA) had to calm investors last week at the news they are losing cable TV customers. This should be no surprise to anyone. I’ve been talking about this exact subject many times over the last several years, and so have countless others.
It’s all about the growth curve that every company, every technology and every industry faces. The growth curve grows, then crests, then falls. Sometimes it is over a product. Other times it’s over an entire company. Still other times it’s over an entire industry. Some companies can transform, start the next growth wave and continue to grow. However, others can’t and eventually fade away.
We’ve seen it happen countless times with many companies like Apple (AAPL), AT&T (T) and IBM (IBM) on the growth side, and Motorola, Blackberry (BBRY), Nokia (NOK), Palm, Borders Books, Barnes & Noble (BKS) and so many others on the falling side.
Cable TV Model is Now Shrinking and Changing
In this case, the traditional cable TV model has grown, has crested and is now falling. It is being replaced by new technology and new competitors. People still watch TV, but they watch it very differently.
Example, IBM is growing through AI and Watson. Another, AT&T acquired DirecTV. They created DirecTV NOW, giving customers more choices than ever of low cost options. They also created wireless TV or mobile TV which lets customers watch over their smartphones or tablets using the AT&T Mobility network. Innovations like these are transforming the entire pay TV industry.
Yesterday, all we had was cable television with no competition. The industry grew and was generally happy. However, they didn’t take care of the customer. Then over the last few years things started to change. New technologies like IPTV or television over the Internet, satellite TV and now wireless TV or mobile TV are continuing to change everything. Today, cable TV is paying more attention to the customer.
Today, Comcast and AT&T DirecTV are the top two competitors in pay TV. You see, TV is still growing, but cable TV is not. Cable TV stopped growing over the last several years. Today, the only reason cable television companies show growth is through acquisition, not customer growth.
Today, Comcast and AT&T DirecTV Are Top Two Pay TV Leaders
The problem is, traditional cable TV is continuing to lose customers. They are moving to new innovative services and competitors like AT&T DirecTV, HULU, Amazon.com (AMZN), Netflix, Sling TV and more.
Comcast and the entire cable television industry are feeling the heat of competition and innovation. Cable television companies need to lead the way to innovation to continue to steer the direction of the evolution and to grow.
However, I don’t think all cable television companies will do this. The question is which ones will innovate and change and lead, and which will not? I see Comcast continuing to work at transforming who they are. They are growing in other areas. At this point, I see Comcast having the best shot at successfully transforming and growing.
Every Growth Wave Rises, Crests the Falls
However, it’s important for every investor, customer and worker to understand what is happening. To pull the camera back and take a longer term historical perspective on the changes that are transforming the cable TV industry.
These are the harsh realities every company faces every day. This is why Comcast is focused on Internet and wireless as well as new ways to deliver television. This is what Brian Roberts was talking about in his attempt to calm the investor community. Yes, things are changing, but he says, so is Comcast.
This happened around 2004 when SBC acquired AT&T, Bellsouth and Cingular. Today, they have grown and changed and are a much larger and much more important player as AT&T. They are still continuing to transform and grow through further movement into television with DirecTV, mobile TV or wireless TV and so much more.
It’s important to remember, the growth curve affects every company. Every opportunity always grows, then crests, then falls. Sometimes it’s quick. Other times it takes longer. But this is the same path every company, product and industry always faces. It’s important to create the next wave to continue to grow.
Jeff Kagan is an Equities.com columnist. Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst, Industry Analyst, speaker and consultant. He follows wireless, wire line, telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, Mobile Pay, FinTech and communications technology. Email him at [email protected]. His web site is www.jeffKAGAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffkagan.