The cable bundle is bursting at the seams, and one of TV’s biggest executives is finally ready to help it happen. CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves admitted Wednesday that “the floodgates are open” for over-the-top television and hinted that a direct-to-consumer version of Showtime will make its debut “in the not-too-distant future.” Moonves made the comments during a telecommunications investor conference in Palm Beach, Florida, where the famously outspoken executive said his company was in contract discussions with “the normal suspects,” Variety reported.
Moonves’ commentary came two days after Apple Inc. announced it will launch on its platform HBO’s new over-the-top service April 12, allowing customers to watch popular shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Girls” without cable subscriptions. As International Business Times reported exclusively last week, HBO’s new service is called HBO Now and will cost about $15 a month.
Showtime is a close rival to HBO and has made inroads in the premium-content race during the past decade with hit shows such as “Dexter” and “Homeland.”
Moonves’ proverbial floodgates mark an abrupt shift in strategy for media companies that have long clung to the profitable status quo -- a bundled suite of cable channels offered as a single package. The shift is the result of a number of market forces, not the least of which is an emerging generation of “cord nevers,” young consumers who have never had, and may never have, cable subscriptions. That trend is reflected in quarterly earnings reports by companies such as the Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc., which have been losing video subscribers but gaining broadband customers.
And if media companies needed any more convincing, traditional cable-TV ratings tumbled 9 percent in 2014, with declines seen across every category. At the same time, Nielsen Media’s most recent “Total Audience Report,” released Wednesday, shows 41 percent of U.S. homes now have access to a subscriber-based video-on-demand service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Floodgate? Genie out of a bottle? Whatever metaphor you want to use, there’s no going back.