December 06, 2018

Sink or stream

TV Japan is a great service. It's the "Reader's Digest" of Japanese television, the only (legal) way to stay current with the best of scripted television (often rebroadcast within days), live and long-format news, and infotainment from NHK and the major commercial broadcasters in Japan.

But $24.99/month is a ridiculous price for a single channel. By comparison, HBO Now charges $14.99/month. And if you're going à la carte, you've got to fork out at least $25.00/month more for a "basic" package and additional fees. Even Xfinity Instant TV hardly saves you any money at all.

Fifty bucks for the one channel I want. And a couple dozen other channels I don't. Except they have me over a barrel so I just may cave. But I'll be grumbling about it the whole time (and get off my lawn!).

The thing is, we've been down this road before, paying through the nose for stuff we don't want in order to get the stuff we do want.

Let's stop and remember how the music business came up with the "cunning plan" of making its customers pay twenty bucks for the CD of an LP they already owned to get the two tracks they wanted. How did that work out? In the short term, like gangbusters. In the long term, it was a disaster.

According to the RIAA, American record industry revenues declined by two-thirds between 1999 and 2014, from an inflation-adjusted $20.6 billion to under $7 billion. Marc Hogan calculates that, in 2015 dollars, average per-unit album retail prices today are half of what they were in 1977.

It has not taken long for history to repeat itself.

The "bundle" is a plodding dinosaur designed to keep the cash-hungry cable model from going extinct. It's not working. As Luke Bouma reports on Cord Cutters News, in the third quarter of 2018 alone, Dish lost 367,000 subscribers, DirecTV lost 346,000, and Comcast lost 106,000.

While in its third quarter earnings report, Roku announced a 43 percent year-over-year increase in active accounts.

Granted, unless you are willing to rely solely on OTA content (which is a perfectly rational option), you'll need a broadband connection. Though these days, that's like saying you need electricity. Even calculating overpriced internet service into the equation, the savings are hard to ignore.

Compared to TV Japan ($24.99/month), Crunchyroll is $9.99/month ($99.99/year). Funimation is $5.99/month ($59.99/year) and HIDIVE is only $4.99/month ($47.88/year).

Toss in dLibrary Japan, TV Japan's VOD service ($9.99/month), and you'll pay for all four what you would for TV Japan on DirecTV or Xfinity, minus the fees. So about half. For four on-demand channels adding up to tens of thousands of hours of programming.

Not to mention that ad-supported streaming services like Tubi are free. And for Roku owners, so is the Roku Channel. And NHK World is free as a public service. I mean, if you've got to watch ads on a cable or satellite channel, shouldn't it be free too? Like OTA always has been?

In any case, there is no way the average cable subscriber can consume even a fraction of the content in the typical cable package. If "all or nothing" is the only option, maybe "nothing" is the choice we ought to be making. It's a choice more and more "cord cutters" are actively embracing.

Which is no doubt one reason why, going forward, AT&T (which owns DirecTV, HBO Now, and Crunchyroll) plans to favor streaming for content distribution, with CEO John Donovan declaring, "We've launched our last satellite."

Donovan and other AT&T executives said the rampant growth of Internet-delivered video services that bypass satellite and cable networks is so significant that it is now the company's future.

A streaming version of DirecTV will reportedly be less expensive as "there is no need for crews to come to your house and install a dish." Hey, unless those cost-savings simply accrue to DirecTV's bottom line, how about knocking twenty bucks off the price of TV Japan? That'd get my attention.

On the other hand, perhaps this really is a "cunning plan." The argument here is that cable companies make better margins selling Internet service and would rather not be joined at the hip with the content providers. Though if 5G lives up to a fraction of the hype, that's no guarantee either.

Incidentally, Cord Cutters News and Cord Cutter Confidential are two good ways to stay up to date about the state of streaming services.

Related posts

Japanese media update
Streaming Japanese
Family Gekijyo

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# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
12/16/2018 10:09 AM   
Have you seen this?