No, the cable bundle isn’t dead. It’s more like an aging dictator who’s starting to show signs of weakness. Those around it, meanwhile, are already agitating for change.
In the last few months in particular, there has been growing evidence of this revolution. After tiptoeing around the demise of the bundle for years, Disney CEO Bob Iger is finally taking bigger steps to ensure his company’s viability, with or without the traditional cable bundle. On Tuesday, during its quarterly earnings call with investors, the Mouse House announced it is paying $1 billion to acquire a 33% stake in BAMTech, the streaming platform built by Major League Baseball over the last decade and a half.
The goal? To launch a direct-to-consumer, subscription sports service. Unfortunately, at least initially the new offering will not include current content from ESPN’s cable network. That said, the announcement is still a significant step toward an inevitable direction.
And that’s not all. Online-only companies, which have far less to lose from the downfall of the once-mighty bundle, are about to make much more aggressive moves.
It has been reported that Google’s YouTube will launch a live TV service sometime next year. Hulu, meanwhile, has already announced its plans to do so. (The latter streaming service is co-owned by Disney (DIS) and Comcast (CMCSA), among others, which is as good of an example as any of their need to hedge their bets.)
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Online-only bundles will bring certain live television offerings to the Internet for a lower subscription fee than the traditional cable bundle. They will likely feature subpar content at their start. For companies like Disney, they will also likely have leaner profit margins than the traditional cable bundle. But they are inevitable. You can try to beat ’em or join ’em, but at some point, companies like Disney won’t be able to do both.