PREMIUM EFFECT: Pay channels pacing cable and its desire to stay relevant

For anyone who believes cable and its reign as choice number one for customers who value their at home entertainment, the numbers don’t lie. Close to 90% off the general population still pays for cable television, a staggering figure that would suggest the online streaming community is doing great things but hasn’t quite achieved hall of fame status in their industry.

That being said, the balance of power may not have shifted but the groundswell of support for anything other than cable and satellite. Companies like Netflix and Hulu have committed to creating their own shows, and that has put an added pressure on cable to stay relevant in the face of stiffer competition. What exactly is keeping cable relevant?

Two words: premium channels. Actual television, more specifically what’s on TV, doesn’t do much to move the proverbial needle in a good way. Reality television is overblown, bloated and unrealistic. Talks shows, aside from a few, are pure nonsense, and game shows seem more formulaic than fun filled. You can get your news and sports online, and even your favorite basic cable TV shows seem to follow an uninspired pattern. And then, there’s the likes of HBO, Showtime and Starz. These premium television networks live up to their tag line and continue to produce flawless television in the vein of comedic prowess, dramatic acumen and storytelling that is second to none.

Programs like The Sopranos and Sex in the City started the ball rolling for HBO, and the award winning network hasn’t come up for air for the better part of 15 years. Since that time, Showtime and others have followed suit by pushing the envelope and keeping cable television relevant in the face of increased competition and consumers cutting cable to save money. You can’t get those remarkable and renowned premium channels as stand alone entities; you have to subscribe and pay for cable. And there in lies the genius behind it all.

Emmy nominations and winners notwithstanding, premium television has the benefit of not adhering to the rules of scriptwriting and pulls back the PG curtain to reveal a gritty, more realistic way of producing television, something that network TV can’t emulate and cable is only starting to realize with a few diamond in the rough shows like Sons of Anarchy, Justified and The Walking Dead. At the end of the viewing day, however, customers are keeping cable, and cable is staying cool thanks to what the programming that is being put forth by the premium channels.

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