To both cable TV distributors and cable TV programmers, the possibility that consumers will finally cut that cord probably sounds like a slashing sound somewhere near their their bottom line. But at least one big distributor is choosing to adapt.
The New York Times reports that Time Warner Cable, one of the top cable and internet providers in the country, announced yesterday that it would soon be subsidizing the cost of Slingbox, a set-top device that untethers viewers from their home television screen and lets them watch programming from anywhere, including computers, mobile phones, or second homes.
Based on Time Warner’s recent legal battles with Viacom, which owns channels such as MTV and Nickelodeon, Viacom isn’t going to be very happy about getting shot in the foot.
CEO Reed Hastings has long-tried to maintain that Netflix is not, in fact, a nefarious plot to destroy the cable companies, but rather a “complementary” service that will leave cords to cable companies neatly intact. Whether or not Mr. Hastings is being sincere about Netflix’s end goal, it looks like that’s how it’s playing out for now. Using last night’s True Blood premiere as bait, HBO saw its 3 millionth download of the HBO Go mobile app (for the iPad, iPhone, and Android) this weekend. The app, a direct competitor to Netflix, can be accessed for free by paying HBO cable customers. Considering that there are 28 million HBO subscribers around the country, that means about 10 percent have tried out the app just since it premiered on May 2nd.
Time Warner and Cablevision customers in New York City still have to wait for the city’s largest cable service providers to close the deal. (And deal with their Soviet-style customer service.) But the New York Post reports that talks are underway.