Yes, TV Apps Can Save Niche Cable and Independent TV Networks – In Theory


lg netcast demo at ifa 2010

I just wanted to piggyback on NewTeeVee’s post: “Can TV Apps Save Niche Cable Networks?” and the recent announcement that WealthTV will be the first cable TV channel, in HD, to be offered on Roku for $2.99/mo. If we can move past the argument of TV platform fragmentation and imagine that it’s easy for any TV network to create an app compatible with all platforms, what are the chances people will view à la carte offerings of niche / independent TV channels as a compelling proposition? We’ve had services like Akimbo before that failed horribly (maybe just too early for its time?). Sure, they never had continuously running cable TV network content (as far as I can remember) on their service and it required buying service specific hardware, but they had plenty of independent channels to keep people entertained. In a way, Boxee or Miro’s entertainment channels are a free, modern day alternative to the service.

Yes, I agree that going the IPTV route to reach new markets and viewers is wise, but from the consumer standpoint, will they bite — especially when these “cable cutters” have chosen this path to reduce costs? I can’t imagine Hulu Plus being such a must-have TV app, if it required you to only pick a handful of TV networks for viewing at $7.99/mo. WealthTV’s asking rate is currently 37% of the price of a Hulu Plus subscription, which offers all the content available from everyone of their partner TV networks. So, this begs the question: What model would work for a service like WealthTV?

Trial & Subscription Pricing

The only way I can see a cable TV network like WealthTV picking up any traction with potential subscribers through an IPTV platfrom would be by offering 3-months of free access to familiarize themselves with the channel and its programming and then billing users, if they wish to continue. Seriously, who’s even heard of WealthTV until today?

Is À la Carte Really Best?

Having the choice to pick and choose want you want to view is great, but as you can see… the option will often come at a premium when subscribing to channels individually. Sucks that I don’t get paid for this, but this is what I would suggest to TV platform producers (feel free to advertise on this site when implemented): create a bucket subscription system, with each bucket having X number of premium networks, that will allow people to subscribe to the option they’re most comfortable with (non-premium channels will remain free and will not be counted in a bucket). The beauty here is that all TV network channels would be required to participate in the discount program as a condition of being on the service. Users, of course, will continue to be able to subscribe to channels individually, if they choose, at the rates stated by the publisher.

The other option is the Hulu route. Small, niche TV channels like WealthTV can form their own Hulu Plus-like offering for IPTV platforms that people can easily subscribe to. Users would then watch programming through the macro channel and have full access to eveyone’s content. Heck, give me a few million of venture funding and I’ll create the network!




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Filed in: Content Providers, Industry Buzz, Streaming Media Devices


  • http://www.google.com/profiles/mtthwgrms Matthew

    I’m loving what you’re saying about “creating a bucket system”- I’ve always said I want a la carte but this is probably much more affordable and would still give you the choice of what you want.

    Oh well- back to not buying cable/satellite! ;)