Industry experts predict shift for cable news into streaming
Industry experts from cable TV, streaming and marketing platforms indicate that the cable TV news bundle is ripe for change.
Viewership for CNN and MSNBC has been climbing since late last year, but millions of Americans are still dropping cable TV bundles.
Two big revenue sources for cable TV networks such as CNN are advertising and fees from cable TV and satellite providers. So is it just a matter of time before there’s a dedicated streaming news bundle for CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and Bloomberg?
A subscription-based streaming service based around CNN, MSNBC and FOX News might be a scenario that networks will have to consider given that revenues derived from cable TV subscribers are gradually eroding, experts say.
Tom Rogers, executive chairman of Engine Media and the first president of NBC Cable, believes that news programming needs a new model in the age of streaming.
“I think there is an opportunity to do for news what Spotify did for music and what Netflix did for entertainment,” Rogers said recently on the Prof G Show podcast. “And that is to create something which is an all encompassing approach to being able to access news and information content and not just the live channels.”
Fox News was the most-watched cable news network in the U.S. and reported a $12.3 billion in revenues for 2020. That marked an 8 percent increase from the prior year. CNN had its highest viewership in its 40 year history in January, beating both MSNBC and Fox News. CNN and MSNBC has been leading in viewership over FOX News since the beginning of the year.
News within the streaming landscape
There are a number of live TV services, including Sling TV, fuboTV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV that act as online replacements for cable TV packages. These services do carry the big 24/7 cable news networks such as FOX News and CNN. But these subscription services hew to the same format of a cable bundle, packaging entertainment, news and sports into a single channel lineup.
There is no streaming bundle that only wraps networks such as CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and Bloomberg into a standalone service. Rogers noted that T-Mobile’s new streaming service is the only place where you can get a bundle of sports and news channels. There is currently no news-only bundle on the streaming market.
For a news streaming bundle to happen, it may require a shift in ownership. CNN is currently owned by AT&T as part of its 2018 acquisition of Time Warner for $85.4 billion. AT&T has not announced any plans to part with CNN.
Tubi, Paramount+, Peacock: news nudges into streaming
There has already been a subtle push by large media companies to add live news to streaming without iconic brands such as CNN.
Tubi, owned by FOX Corporation, announced a major expansion into its “News on Tubi” section. The company intends to have nearly 100 live, local news feeds by the end of the year. The announcement came with tubi gaining 80 new channels in February. TV station owners such as Cox Media Group, Hearst Television, Scripps and TEGNA are participating with News on Tubi.
Paramount+ launched last week and has a dedicated news tab that carries its digital-first news platform CBSN. Parent company ViacomCBS launched CBSN in 2014. It’s success prompted ViacomCBS to begin expanding in 2018 with local and regional CBSN channels covering specific major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Last year, parent company ViacomCBS, announced that CBSN would expand into international markets.
Peacock, launched by NBCUniversal, hosts its own streaming news channels such as NBC News NOW and TODAY all day. Its parent company Comcast/Xfinity also owns XUMO, which has a number of live news channels.
A question of time…
Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei said in a recent interview that there could come a day when cable operators stop offering TV packages. He said cable operators are often blamed for price increases, but it’s actually networks such as MSNBC that are demanding higher prices.
Altice currently has about 5 million customers through its ownership of Cablevision and Suddenlink. Asked about whether he envisions a day when cable companies no longer offer TV packages, he responded by saying it was just a matter of time when over-the-top (OTT) alternatives become the norm.
“As people move away from the cable bundle, by definition, everything is going to the OTT world over broadband,” Goei said during an interview with CNBC. “So, do I really need to be providing a bundle? I think there’s a lot of people already out there providing bundles. So I think it’s a question of time. I can’t tell you when, where and how, but it’s a question of time for cable operators in general to completely reevaluate whether or not they’re going to be in the video business.
About 25 million U.S. households are expected to cancel their cable TV or satellite subscription in the next five years. That’s in addition to another 25 million that have already cut the cord from cable TV and satellite providers.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble