As I Was Saying

Aereo's Sizeable Appeal to Pay TV and Streaming Viewers

Centris Study Indicates Many Would Sign Up for Service 4/11/2014 10:15 AM


As Aereo's Supreme Court date approaches, and rhetoric escalates about  whether the retransmission upstart can or should survive, research from Centris Market Science finds that 45% of homes now using streaming video are "somewhat" or "very" likely to subscribe to Aereo. 


The Centris study, conducted during the last week of March, also found that about 41% of current "pay TV" households (that is, cable or satellite subscribers) hold similar views about signing up.


Even among viewers who do not currently subscribe to a fee-based service, interest in Aereo is high: 53% told Centris that they leaned toward using the service.  That level of interest suggest that broadcasters are rightfully afraid - very afraid - that viewers could be lured to a service that generates no revenue for TV station owners.


"It appears that the pay-TV operators’ fears that Aereo has the potential to erode their market share are well-founded," Centris' analysis concluded. It suggested that there is the "potential for even greater conversion as consumers learn more about the service."


The research firm, which has conducted extensive consumer research on behalf  of cable programmers and operators for years, drew this data from its "Evolution of Video Community" panel, a group of 325 households.


While the Supreme Court's final word on Aereo, expected by early summer, may secure or seal the fate of this Internet TV business, Centris' study does offer hope to other competitive providers who may find an alternative way to deliver online video. In general, I am skeptical about "what if" research, especially among people who have  only "heard about" (if that) a service such as nascent Aereo.  Yet, as my colleague Jimmy Schaeffler pointed out in his blog recently, Aereo or another venture could find a way to surmount any legal barriers.


That's why Centris's hypothetical study - lame as it may be - lends support to a daunting reality: viewers are looking for alternatives.  They are willing to pay, but not so much as today's providers charge.  And even if "only" 45% of subscribers or even the 14% who are "very likely" actually do sign up, that's a sizeable opportunity, and a big chunk of current paying customers who may be lost.