Are Cable Companies Becoming Obsolete?

When it first came into prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, cable television was a big deal. It offered steadier picture quality for local TV than an antenna could provide, and it offered more choices than just network affiliates. Eventually, cable grew to the point where it became a serious threat to the dominance of network television. But times and technology have changed again, thanks to a technology that was new and largely untested when cable TV was at its peak: streaming devices and services.

Back in the 1990s, the only streaming content on the internet was in low-quality formats such as RealPlayer that streamed low-resolution videos and audio that wasn’t nearly as good as a CD. Apple also upgraded its QuickTime software to make it more compatible with the new internet streaming technology, but it was not until the mid-2000s and the growth of YouTube that people started to take streaming video seriously.

Image Credit: USAVPN

By this time, cable TV in the United States had grown to the point where people started to joke that there were “a thousand channels and nothing to watch.” Also, the DVD rental service Netflix started to move its services to an online streaming model in addition to physical discs. Eventually, it started producing new shows and movies that were comparable in quality to cable and network TV. Hulu, another similar site, came on the scene around that time.

While this posed a new challenge to the broadcast networks, all of whom survived the onslaught of cable TV by becoming corporate siblings with movie studios, it also posed a challenge to cable as well. It enabled viewers to watch TV over the internet with a picture that was just as good as cable, if not better.

Image credit: {AT&T Experience}

Streaming devices such as Apple TV also provided a new challenge for established cable TV operators. This allows users to watch a lot of the same TV shows, sports, and movies as cable while it also allows them to save recorded shows just as a DVR would. The first generation of Apple TVs came out in 2007. Since then, there have been five generations of models, and the most recent one is capable of displaying 4k content. Cable TV was slower to adapt by comparison.

It looks like there is no end in sight for most of the major streaming devices and services. The technology will continue to improve as the years go by. Unless cable services evolve to compete, then it’s likely they will cease to exist altogether.



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