Do Channels Still Matter? Or Do Boxes Like Apple, Google, Roku, Boxee and iGuGu Matter More?

In August 2010, the market research firm Morpace came out with a study that said only 52% of all TV viewing is what the study describes as “live,” but I would describe as “on the channels’ schedules,” with 41% of 18-34 year-olds—a demographic prized quite often by advertisers based on perception—doing the same. The same study also concluded that more than half—51%—say they watch some video online, and concludes that TV and Internet will, in the next few years, become more integrated.

The question then becomes one of whether video channels, as people have known them since the 1950’s, still matter? Oh, they do, for right now, in some capacity or other, as sure as there is a market for people who still want to watch shows on the channels’ schedules, given the high viewership numbers for such well-established TV favorites like the National Football League, “American Idol,” “Dancing With the Stars,” and the Academy Awards.

But when people find nothing to watch on the 300 or so channels offered via their cable system or satellite dish, they might be joining the growing undercurrent of Internet video watchers, which totaled over 171,000,000 in January 2011, with Google’s YouTube accounting for more than 1/3 of the nearly 4.9 billion viewing sessions that month.


Add to that all the various permutations of video-on-demand available now or in development at both the Internet and cable system levels, as well as the advent of over-the-top boxes from the likes of Apple, Google, Roku, Boxee and iGuGu, to say nothing of options available now and in the future for live video over smartphones and other mobile devices, and it may end up being a matter of time before traditional channels may not matter as much as they do now.

Another question to ask is: Do channels still matter when people are “cutting the cable”? That depends, because while there’s lots of video available online, and while Netflix can sell you an unlimited online video stream of past movies and TV shows for a monthly price that’s less than many premium cable channels, there are many other cable channels that do not make full episodes of their shows available online for viewers to watch on their own time.

ESPN, for its part, offers its online video service, called ESPN3, which offers some simulcasts of the regular ESPN channels as well as additional events not available on them, only to subscribers who buy cable/satellite channel packages, depending on whether the provider paid for the right to carry ESPN3, and there are many providers who still don’t offer that particular service yet.


I wouldn’t be surprised if, a few years from now, many content providers who currently sell their product to just cable and satellite systems decide to also sell them to the over-the-top box manufacturers and to wireless broadband providers.  The matter, of course, is one of whether such sales can be accomplished at prices that would be attractive and beneficial to both the content people and manufacturing/service-providing people.

But you don’t have to agree with me.  That’s why I’d like to close this by asking you if TV channels still matter in your viewing, and would it matter whether you watch them on a regular TV screen, or on the screen of any computer, tablet or smartphone?  That’s what the comment box is for.