Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Today's Daily Cord-Cutting Denial: Viacom

We know the drill by now: Cable company exec speaks in a public setting, gets asked about “cord cutting” and says he can’t see it.

Cue disbelief from people who have indeed cut the cord. Or at least want to cut the cord.

Today’s episode comes courtesy of Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, during his company’s earnings call this morning. Guess what he said after an analyst asked if his recent Netflix deal would push cable subscribers to bail out and go Web-only?

Okay, no need to guess. PaidContent’s David Kaplan jotted down Dauman’s response:

Even through this powerful recession, TV viewership held up. There is much ado about nothing, when it comes to talk of cord-cutting. We have seen subscribers on more networks increase, because we’ve seen incremental distribution from the telcos. We don’t see cord-cutting happening. If anything, it’s the economy that holds down subscribers. As it returns, so do the subscribers.

Since we’re going to see/hear this movie many more times for quite some time, it may be worthwhile to start figuring out how both sides could be right.

Here’s a theory to start with: Cord cutters are real, but they’re a very vocal minority, and they’re dramatically overrepresented on sites like this one. And even if you’re not a cord cutter, I’d guess that if you’re reading this site you’re much more likely than the average American to have a media- and tech-savvy friend who has cut the cord.

The flip side of the argument is that pay TV numbers may still be increasing, but not by much. And if the cable guys are right, and the losses they’ve been seeing are because the economy is lousy, then that strikes me as much more important than they’re letting on: Who gives up TV, and how can the cable guys not figure out a way to sell them TV at a price they can afford?

So, again, I’m just spitballing. Take it from here, or let me know what you think.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work