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Bundled Cable Deathwatch: Lionsgate, Tribeca Team for Streaming Network

Bundled Cable Deathwatch: Lionsgate, Tribeca Team for Streaming Network

According to Deadline, Lionsgate and Tribeca will partner for a Netflix-style video-on-demand (VOD) service that “will focus on prestige independent films from around the world … The films will be curated by Tribeca and leading voices in contemporary culture and refreshed on a weekly basis. The service is slated to launch in the first half of calendar 2015.”

This sort of foo foo programming doesn’t sound like it will set the streaming world on fire. It could, though, attract enough elites to keep the ball in the air. Unlike the famous and failed experiment called the Z Channel, which catered to a similar crowd in the ’70s, a streaming channel has much less to worry about as far as the price of infrastructure.

It will also be important to find out if this kind of niche programming can profit via subscription streaming. The rigged game of bundled cable is the only reason all but about 20 niche networks profit on cable. By making upwards of 100 million households pay for dozens of channels they neither want nor watch, dozens of niche networks remain profitable — but not on the merit of popularity. Networks like MTV, CNN, MSNBC and the like would be diminished or outright collapse without the affirmative action of bundled cable.

If a niche channel like Lionsgate/Tribeca can make it work, others are sure to follow. We already know that aping the populist Netflix doesn’t work. Redbox tried that and failed spectacularly.

I think, too, that this is Lionsgate/Tribeca laying down an early beachhead in a exploding universe. Get the brand out there and adjust for the future accordingly. First is best. This could be the streaming network that gobbles up all the other niche streaming networks to create a workable Showtime to Netflix’s HBO.

Last week, with the announcement that HBO and CBS would create streaming channels independent of bundled cable, I said that dam had cracked. This is another crack and yet another service that will make more and more Americans wonder why in God’s name they are paying $90  a month for a bundled cable package filled networks they hate and 20 minutes of commercials for every hour.

More importantly, you have two Hollywood brands breaking from the bundled cable monopoly. Just last year the unwritten rule around the entertainment business was, “Thou shalt not do anything that will bruise the golden goose of bundled cable.” The thinking was that if no one gave Netflix content, Netflix would die and bundled cable would live forever.

Predictably, that failed. Bundled cable subscribers fell, the American population increased, and this left tens of millions of customers on the table. The only way to reach those customers and their dollars is through streaming. Thus begins the bundled cable death spiral. The better the streaming content, the more people will be enticed to cut the cable cord.

It’s a beautiful thing.

John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC              

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