In much the same way Netflix and Redbox sent traditional video rental companies like Blockbuster into oblivion, in recent years, some experts have predicted that over the top (OTT) providers like Hulu would eventually be the demise of cable television. But in fact, cable seems quite healthy, evidenced by the record 17.2 hours per week viewers watched in 2013. Based on the numbers, it appears television fans aren’t yet ready to leave the medium behind.
“With the growth in on-demand viewing, Hulu and Netflix, you’d think there’d be less viewing of cable TV as a whole,” says Turner Broadcasting research chief Jack Wakshlag. “But it’s at the highest it’s ever been.”
Re-runs of popular network shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family” helped drive TBS and USA, while originals like “The Walking Dead” and “Duck Dynasty” scored big ratings for AMC and A&E respectively. “The Walking Dead,” in particular, has established itself as a major player in prime time. Theories about why the show has become such a smashing success vary, but the numbers make a clear point; the zombie-chronicling show is number one in the all-important 18-49 demographic, even outpacing traditional network juggernauts like “Sunday Night Football.”
Despite their current stability, providers are not simply standing around waiting to be put out of business. Cable companies are developing their own Pay TV OTT models in an effort to create new revenue streams and keep up with competitors. Last year Time Warner became the first provider to strike a deal allowing the company to stream content through a dedicated Apple TV application—and it is highly unlikely it will be the last. So while some experts believe cable remains between a rock and a hard place, for now, the industry’s future is far from set in stone.