Can Cable Companies Learn from Apple and the Music Industry?

The days of paying a huge monthly cable bill for a pre-packaged bundle of shows you don’t watch may soon be over, and just about everybody realizes it except for the cable companies.

Consumers no longer need to be at the mercy of cable companies, paying for stations and programming they don’t watch. It’s time for cable companies to realize that their business model has been rendered obsolete by a company that is renown for putting the entertainment industry on its head; Apple.

With the iPad, Apple may soon revolutionize how TV is delivered, much like it did with the music industry. Apple is promoting content through its iPad bookstore where publishers can use it as storefront to deliver content. This approach is similar to Amazon’s Kindle, but goes far beyond Kindle’s limited scope as a single use tool for reading. Through the iPad, consumers will not only be able to download books, but also movies and TV programming.

Cable companies are no longer the only source of on-demand content, as in years past. With the advent high-speed wireless delivery, consumers can find the programming they want, when they want it, through a variety of VOD (video on demand) services. The Wall Street Journal reports Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, are just some options consumers are navigating. Netflix is staying abreast of the changing dynamic of content delivery. They changed the video rental business by not adopting a bricks and mortar business model to compete with Blockbuster, which is close to becoming bankrupt, but instead incorporating a low-cost, convenient mail/internet process.  Interestingly, Netflix is also moving away from physical delivery of DVDs by mail to streaming movies and video directly to game consoles and devices, bypassing cable boxes entirely. In addition, the video provided includes a depth of content (director interviews, plot analyses, criticism, reviews) not available through cable access.

The issue isn’t content, but delivery. The days of must-buy bundles delivered by cable companies is on the wane. Victim of the new kid on the block iPad, whose flexible, portable, interactive access to broadband web, provides a far richer experience. The Harvard Business Review notes the iPad and a good internet connection is all the consumer needs for their entertainment.

Can the cable companies reinvent their business model and remain relevant to in this dynamic industry? Or are they doomed to go the way of music industry, where fans took advantage to purchase — or steal — one hit single off an otherwise mediocre album. Why buy the whole package when you can get only what you want, when you want it?

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