Hello Streaming Services, Move Over Cable TV

An array of screens displaying different streaming platforms, illustrating the widespread use and concerns in the digital entertainment sector.

Streaming services — like HBO Max from AT&T’s WarnerMedia, Peacock from Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Apple TV+, Disney+, and many others — are clear examples of the change to a short-attention-span world. What does that mean for investors, workers, and consumers?

Short-attention-span content seems new, with the arrival of all these competing streaming services, but in truth, there has been movement in this direction for decades.

I remember noticing how my own attention span was shrinking back in the 1990s. I called it “a sound bite world” back then, but it means the same thing as “short attention span world” today.

Thought Bursts

Back then, I thought it was just me. After all, I spoke with the media on a daily basis, giving comments on the news stories they called me about, looking for little bits full of meaning.

After thousands of interviews and countless conversations, I learned how to express short but powerful thoughts. Think of them as “bursts.”

My columns reflected the same effort. I had to take long ideas that could fill up a book and shrink them into 750 words. Having to adopt this kind of verbal shorthand was something that only seemed to affect analysts like me — or so I thought.

Then, I learned from many of the CEOs I spoke with that they had the same problem. They had so much information to read that many of them asked for a one-page summary of every issue they had to address. If they needed more, they could get it, but they wanted to keep their world as simple as possible.

Fast-forward to today. With all the new technology and social networks, we see this change affecting nearly every one of us to one extent or another.

With smartphones, text messages, email, web, social networks, and more, we must think and write in short bursts. Otherwise, we won’t be read or heard.

Flexible Viewing Options

We are no longer willing to sit down in front of the TV and invest hours of our time in what someone else programmed us to see.

Today, we choose. We choose what we watch and when we watch it. We also choose how we watch it and even where. Sometimes it’s on TV. Other times, it’s on the computer, tablet, smartphone, or even smartwatch.

The way we consume news, entertainment, sports, and more has been changing for years. The streaming services have been growing as more and more of us enter this new short-attention-span world.

There are several different companies and services that have entered this world, and more will come along with creative new ideas and thinking.

Expect this trend to continue. Expect to see new ideas introduced over the next decade. For many of us, the way we consume programming is very different today than it was a decade ago.

This change wave will impact more of us every year, and the available technologies and services will change and grow.

Who would have thought a decade ago that streaming services would be so popular today? They are exploding into the marketplace, and the sector will experience more change and growth over the next decade.

Traditional pay TV offered by cable and satellite providers will still have a place in the hearts of many consumers. However, growth will come from other ways of delivering content. We are moving into streaming services today, and those offerings will evolve as well.

It’s important for competitors to offer many different ways for consumers to watch what they want, the way they want it, on the device they want, wherever they are.

Welcome the New, Hold Onto the Old

Some services will grow faster than others. However, the full range of services will be important to a well-rounded company going forward in the next decade. No provider wants to lose customers who are not yet ready to step into the streaming world.

Companies should not dump the old way of doing things and switch entirely to the new ways. They should offer a broad selection of viewing options and let their customers choose how they want to consume content and their own comfortable pace of evolution.

Over time, viewers’ habits will shift from the older ways toward the newer, but today — and for years to come — it is important for competitors to maintain as many different service plans as possible in order to protect their position in the marketplace and enable growth.

Jeff Kagan

Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.

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