The Internet is displacing cable for a growing number of individuals, families, and businesses. More people are opting to become zero TV homes, which means they get TV service, not in the traditional ways, but via the Internet.
According to a recent Nielsen study, the number of zero TV homes jumped to 5 million from 2 million in the past six years. As budgets tighten and people embrace a simpler lifestyle, cable is increasingly seen as waste. This trend is not likely to stop, because the Internet offers a plethora of ways to do without cable.
The most obvious way the Internet is displacing cable is by providing access to the TV shows viewers want to watch. Though cable TV has made choosing when to watch your favorite show more convenient through DVRs and on-demand service, there are still challenges with these methods, so your shows may not be available when you want them.
The Internet streams your favorite TV shows to your computer whenever it's convenient for you. More shows are available than can typically be found with on-demand services, so more watchers are turning to the Internet to see their must-watch shows. A variety of devices (from game systems to viewing-specific technology) allow you to connect your computer to your TV, so you are actually watching Internet-streamed shows and movies on your TV set.
Thanks to the different technology now available to us, we now have different viewing habits than we did in the past. Fewer people watch shows when they are scheduled on TV, because it is so much more convenient to access them when we want. This also means we rarely watch TV ads anymore.
We used to watch TV for our news and weather. Now, of course, it is quicker and easier to go online and find the information we want. Opening any browser will give you access to the news of the day -- locally, nationally, and internationally. The Internet has effectively displaced cable as the way to get your daily news and weather.
Businesses are starting to see the wisdom in funneling their advertising dollars away from cable TV. Niche cable channels were once the ideal way to reach your target consumers. Now that more people are turning to nontraditional viewing methods (without the ads), it is harder than ever to measure the effectiveness of cable TV ads, and it's harder to reach those viewers.
Dave Johnson, the owner of Safe Choice Security, told me he decided cable advertising had stopped working for his firm.
Ten years ago, we knew that, if we ran ads with Comcast here, we would be hitting a huge targeted audience... It was a no brainer. Now ad costs have nearly doubled, while the audience is smaller and less engaged. It just doesn't return much anymore. We've switched to almost entirely online advertising now.
Wise businesses understand that Internet advertising is much more effective, targeted, timely, and cost-efficient than TV advertising overall. Snack food manufacturers, car retailers, and beer companies will likely continue to use TV ads effectively, but most businesses, especially small and midsized ones, will likely eschew TV ads of any kind in favor of Internet advertising, which is, after all, where their customers are.
The sole area where cable TV retains its importance is live sporting events. People watch them on TV at their scheduled time. The enormous draw of such events is why their ad rates are so high. For now, a better solution for watching live sporting events is not available, but as soon as the Internet provides one, cable TV will become even more a thing of the past.
TV shows, movies, news, weather, and so much more are always available, always ready for you with your high-speed Internet connection. It truly is well on its way to displacing cable in homes everywhere.
— Gerad Hoyt is the online marketing director for Vast Bridges, a company specializing in channel marketing, sales, and promotion. You can follow him on Twitter @geradhoyt.