March 12th, 2015
Privacy Concerns Rise as Consumers Seek Substitutes for Traditional Television
By: Gerard Cicer
For broadcast and cable networks, the writing is on the wall. Any person with an eye or ear toward pop culture and consumer trends knows that traditional television viewership is declining. Whether it be network news casts that have been replaced by internet news aggregators or former staples, such as premium cable movie channels—uprooted in favor of paid streaming services, consumer tastes have shifted away from the tube, towards alternative internet based programming. A recent Washington Post article, found here, gives little hope to traditional television media, in a chronicle of the accelerating trend towards internet based substitutions. However, in the wake of accelerating biannual decline, to the tune of almost 10 percent, author Cecilia King reveals that broadcast and cable networks are fighting back. These networks are attempting to claw back some market share, by entering the very market that is quickly eroding their decades old platform.
The last few years has seen a rise of online video viewership, as the Post article points out, roughly “40 percent of U.S. homes”, up from just 36 percent last year, subscribe to at least one paid internet streaming service like Netflix or Hulu. For traditional networks, hungry for advertising fees and licensing arrangements, this trend is difficult to ignore. Networks such as HBO, NBC, and CBS have either launched or announced plans for streaming services to compete with current internet incumbents. While new service providers in an already dense market unquestionably strokes the public’s desire for more price and quality competition, the increase in service options comes with a matched increase in opportunities for consumer privacy information appropriations and mishaps.
With these new entrants, the internet programming industry is becoming more diffuse. Consumers will likely no longer be giving information merely to the cable company and one other internet provider such as Netflix. For example, I have already eschewed cable for a combination, though not simultaneously, of Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO-Go and Hulu subscriptions as well as “free” providers like YouTube and Twitch.tv. As in my case, consumers are no longer putting their identifying information, address, credit card information, email address, viewing habits in the hands of one or two companies. Rather, in order to match and surpass the level of choice they once had through network and cable TV, consumers may very well sign up for multiple streaming services, the combined cost of which is still less than traditional television. The rub of course is, that to access these services, consumers must in effect deal with multiple companies and provide varied information to each of them. This raises privacy concerns that are much more nascent than when there was only one video entertainment provider.