Viacom is negotiating with several phone carriers in the United States to put more of its content on mobile devices — a move to reach consumers (particularly young people) who are ditching traditional cable and TV screens, according to news reports.
The news is a sure sign that the New York-based company – owner of MTV, BET and other youth-oriented networks – is positioning itself to be less reliant on TV licensing fees, the bread and butter of bundling.
Bundling is the practice TV networks use to tie a group of channels together — some of them extremely popular like Comedy Central, and some not as popular like Spike TV — and sell them to customers under one price. These prices, while extremely lucrative for TV networks, have increasingly become scrutinized as more TV providers question rising fees and more subscribers choose to cut the cord.
Why more movie and TV content will be coming to your cell phone
With the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which allow users to pick and choose individual TV shows and movies, more people are choosing their content sans packaging, to the chagrin of cable providers.
“The way they package everything, can you imagine if you went in to buy a 2×6 and you had to take a 2×4 with it?” Ben Hooks, proprietor of Buford Media, told NPR.
Viacom’s play for mobile providers is new for the United States, but the company reportedly already has agreements in place in foreign countries. Now, the company is creating a division that will produce short-form shows specifically targeted toward young mobile users.
“There are hundreds of millions of mobile users in the U.S. who are in the nascent stages of consuming content on their devices and certainly are in the nascent stages of doing it on a pay basis,” Viacom Chief Executive Bob Bakish told Reuters in an exclusive interview recently.
At least 100 people will be hired for the endeavor, Bakish said.
The deal signifies the precipitous future of cable TV networks, which are increasingly fighting for the same piece of pie in a crowded landscape already hemorrhaging viewership to other screens.
“Ten years ago, Viacom would never have wanted to do anything like this because they wouldn’t want to jeopardize their relationships with the traditional distributors,” Terry Denson, former head of content at Verizon, was quoted as saying. “The balance of power has shifted as the opportunity for growth lies with newer distribution platforms like social media, smartphones and tablets.”
In addition to Viacom’s play for mobile content, other companies such as Youtube, Apple and Vimeo are focusing on digital films as well.
So, what does all this mean? It means that you’ll soon be able to watch more TV shows and movies on your cell phone.
Money expert Clark Howard says the shift to other forms of media — and away from traditional TV — will only increase.
“We are in the midst of a big shift in how you consume TV,” he writes. “I’ll give you an example: My kids don’t know what traditional pay TV programming is. It’s meaningless to them. That’s because they have grown up with video content being available on their schedule.”
Why more Americans are cutting the cord
With a deluge of entertainment available on multiple screens, U.S. consumers are wising up about paying extravagant prices for cable TV. Many of them are opting for cheaper ways to watch the shows and movies they love.
Clark says here are two ways to do just that:
Pit the providers against each other: Clark says most people today have access to four major providers in TV: two satellite companies, one cable company and a monopoly phone company providing TV. Pit them against each other to get the best deal you can.
Invest in an antennae: Remember those? It’s not unusual for people to get 40 or 50 channels for free through the thin air using an antenna that may cost as little as $15. Visit AntennaWeb.org to check out the reception in your neighborhood.