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Which Companies Will Win As Pay TV Evolves?

Written By: Jeff Kagan 

Pay TV as an industry has been going through enormous waves of transformation over the last decade, and that change wave will continue and only accelerate over the next decade. Let’s take a look at the changes we have seen so far and what’s coming. Who will the real winners and losers be? The companies you should invest in, work for and be customers of — that's who.

Ten years ago, we had the cable television industry and satellite TV and that was pretty much it in pay TV. Ten years ago, cable TV companies owned this industry. Not anymore.

Comcast and AT&T are top two competitors in pay TV

Today Comcast and AT&T are the top two competitors in pay TV. Most people do not realize how large AT&T has become in pay TV.

Television used to come to the home or office over a cable. Today, it comes over the Internet, both wire line and wireless. That let’s new competitors enter this space continually with IPTV. Next, 5G wireless Internet will continue to transform this industry.

Pay TV going through major transformation wave

This is a dynamic shift in the traditional and sleepy television industry. Today, much of what we used to get over the cable TV network now comes through the Internet.

That’s what Comcast did with their Xfinity and what Charter did with Spectrum services. Altice did the same thing but chose not to confuse the marketplace by introducing a new brand name.

That’s what the new AT&T TV is all about as well. Taking TV and entertainment to the next level using the Internet.

During the last decade we have seen new players jump in and rapidly grow. Netflix is one of these rapidly growing companies. It shifted from mailing DVDs to the home, to going online. Now it is partnering with a wide variety of pay TV providers because that’s what customers want.

AT&T TV just launched and is changing pay TV marketplace

AT&T first jumped into pay TV with its Uverse service a decade ago, then it acquired DirecTV five years ago. Now it has just introduced its AT&T TV pay TV service, and this service is very advanced for the industry. This will cause competitors to up their game as well in order to keep up. So, you can see how quickly AT&T grew in pay TV and how aggressive they are.

There are many other smaller players as well like HULU, YouTubeTV and others entering the sector all the time. Expect more as we move forward with 5G wireless.

The next big transformation wave which the industry is rapidly moving toward is streaming TV. Heavy hitter brand names with lots of programming to package into their bundle are coming online.

Streaming TV: HBOMax, Peacock, Disney+ and Apple TV+

Top name competitors include HBOMax from AT&T, Peacock from Comcast, Disney+ and Apple TV+. These services will compete in new ways. They each offer different programming and content in their own packages.

That means if customers want to see some programming from one and other programming from another, they will have to sign up with more than one provider.

This is the first generation of this new concept. Expect plenty of marketing chaos in the first few years. This new way of packaging and delivering television, creates an entirely new competitive playing field in the pay TV industry that is just getting started.

Pay TV is changing, so which companies will be the winners?

So, while ten years ago pay TV was owned by the cable television industry, today traditional cable TV is losing market share. It is being replaced by a wider pay TV industry using IPTV, both wire line and wireless as new competitors are gaining market share.

The same way AT&T became a leader in the pay TV space in a few short years, other changes will continue to transform the industry. Other competitors like Disney and Apple are jumping in. This will only continue going forward.

Expect plenty of new ideas in streaming TV to keep popping up for the next few years until the industry settles in on the way it will do business that will be good for both providers and their customers.

In fact, going forward I expect to see more new ideas popping up and changing everything in this fertile and now fast changing industry.

That means whether you are an executive of one of these companies, an investor or customer, you should prepare for change and acceleration. Who will be the long-term winners that you should invest in, work for and be a customer of? That’s what we’ll have to keep our eyes open for moving ahead.

Related: 10 Trends To Watch After the Pandemic

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