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Robert Trigaux

'Cutting the cord' on cable TV service seen as rising trend in 2011



verizon_fioslogo.jpgWake up and good morning. Are you rethinking the value of your cable TV service? More people are, given the cost-cutting spirit of many households and given the rise of options via the Internet, DVRs and new technologies that help folks watch at least a good portion of what is now on television.

brighthouselogo.jpgThat's the type of thinking that terrifies business like Verizon and Bright House Networks, the two dominating providers of subscription cable TV franchises in the Tampa Bay area. Verizon's FiOS (fiber optic) TV service -- now available in about two thirds of the metro area (sorry, most of St. Petersburg, you'll be ignored for the foreseeable future) -- cost the company big bucks to build so the notion of customers starting to have second thoughts is obviously troubling.

There have been a number of stories, including this AP story, suggesting the rough economy and growing entertainment alternatives are making it tough for traditional cable TV firms to grow. It reminds me a bit of what happened with the rise of wireless phones. As people grew comfortable with cell phone reliability, many ditched their landline, copper-wired telephone service.

Out with the old. In with the new.

Today's USA Today has a good story about the rising talk over "cutting" the cable TV cord. What do media moguls fear? That "2011 could become the year when increasing numbers of people watch Web TV content from sources including Netflix, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, Hulu Plus and Crackle — and trim or even cancel their monthly subscriptions for cable, satellite or phone company TV service."

Verizon's own vice president for consumer strategy and planning, Shawn Strickland, is quoted citing the blazing pace of change in the industry. "We've been looking at this issue for the better part of a year, and our perspective has pretty much done a 180," Strickland tells USA Today, "to a belief now that pay-TV 'cord cutting' — industry jargon for consumers who drop their cable or satellite TV service — "will happen."

Now Verizon and Bright House will argue, correctly, that many customers use bundled services from them, meaning they pay a single monthly charge for a package of television, Internet access and even telephone (throw in the option for cell phone service, too, from Verizon) access that will surely slow any defections from cable TV services alone.

What the USA Today story does not say is how younger people -- more adept with technology and perhaps more sensitive to saving a few bucks -- are leading the charge to drop cable in favor of various Internet-based options like Hulu or Netflix. And Clearwire Corp. recently began selling its wireless Internet access service (called Clear) in the Tampa Bay area, as this St. Petersburg Times story explains.

One thing we can all agree on is that it costs a lot of money to subscribe to any service offering cable TV or Internet access or phone service. But options are growing and it makes sense for everyone to keep up with what's available and the relative cost and ease of getting what you want.

So have you thought seriously of cutting the cable TV cord?

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 6:56am]


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