Pay-TV operators 'at risk' of losing Generation Y subscribers

Summary:As more of the Generation Y use the web to access television content, why have the broadcasters not kept up with a minority, yet game-changing demographic?

The typical image of a typical student today: sitting in their pyjamas, on the sofa, in front of the television, watching a day-time chat show and eating cereal out of the packet.

Yet this image has not been the case for quite some time. The television isn't there. It's a laptop, at their desk (but still in their pyjamas with the cereal box).

A report suggests that television subscription companies, which offer paid-for content through cable and satellite services, are at risk from losing younger Generation Y subscribers if they do not expand outside the traditional broadcasting model.

It has been no secret that for nearly a decade, an entire generation has been brought up on increasingly faster broadband speeds -- almost year by year -- with piracy at the turn of the century more widespread than a flu pandemic.

We as a generation, through our viewing patterns and habits, have shaped how the technology industry focuses broadcasting towards on-demand media, non-platform specific devices, browsers and operating systems.

Simply put: who needs a television, with a strict schedule and subscription rates, when cheaper and far greater options are available using our broadband connection?

There are a number of reasons why the Generation Y, students in particular, are moving away from traditional sources of pay-TV content -- all the way from cable television to satellite services.

The United States has not only Netflix and Hulu, but has a vastly decentralised television network; far more convoluted than their British counterparts. The United Kingdom, however, is increasingly becoming more complicated. It has what would be seen as basic public broadcasting in form of the five basic channels, including BBC content, as well as on-demand services too.

The British, however, are lumbered with the TV license fee: an inescapable fee that enables the license holder to legally watch any live broadcast, or face the penalty of a hefty fine if caught without one.

On-demand has in the grand scheme of television history been a short term evolution from traditional broadcasting -- and in most cases avoids the painfully extortionate TV licence.

I laugh when I think back to only a few years ago, when both analogue and digital television services could be picked up by a select few mobile phones. 3G speeds picked up, and LTE/4G was rolled out in some places negating this entirely.

Streaming is by far the revolution to television that we have been waiting for.

But issues of privacy and content protection are not warning away younger 'non-consumers' enough to drive them away from torrent websites; where an entire television series can be downloaded in as little as a few hours.

Watching television is more than sitting in front of the box in your living room. It has become an increasingly social, online activity; vastly widening viewing habits through a spectrum of mobile devices from phones to tablets.

But broadcasters need to start optimising their services to be dynamic and vibrant, and in line and in tune with their younger audiences.

The majority of traditional television viewers are of the older generation for which I suspect their habits are set very much in stone. Perhaps if parallel services are available for the ones who want it become available, the traditional broadcasting model will not die out for a minority, yet significant demographic.

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Topics: Mobility, Hardware

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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