Will the Bundle Bounce Back?

Pay TV pundits say that consumers and media companies are tired of all the disaggregation … and might want a little re-aggregation in their lives
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DENVER -- With the pay TV eco-system losing around 1.4 million customers in the first quarter, per estimates, the smart money wouldn’t seem to be on the bundle coalescing anew.

But that was the very idea put forth by a couple of pay TV industry pundits at a video trade show in Denver this week.

“The return of the big bundle—that’s where we’re headed,” declared Scott Ehrlich, VP of emerging platform Content, Sinclair Broadcast Group, speaking on a panel Tuesday. “Everything that gets disaggregated gets re-aggregated.

According to fellow panelist Gary Schanman, senior VP of products for Charter Communications, many customers are coming to the realization that they can’t beat the value of his company’s managed network video services on price, now that many virtual MVPDs have upped their monthly fees.

“We still think we have an advantage,” Schanman said.

Meanwhile, the panelists said that media companies—now charged with distributing, marketing and doing pretty much everything else needed to get their shows seen in direct-to-consumer models—might soon miss the ease of the pay TV bundle.

“It’s really hard. You’re going to see a lot of guys try to get into [direct-to-consumer], blow through their libraries, and then blow through their budgets,” said Bob Greene, managing director of business development for Liberty Global.

“You’re going to see them return,” he added.

“How much money do you save wholesaling through a company that provides you with delivery, marketing and customer service?” said Ehrlich. 

Indeed, at the Pay TV Show, a recurrent theme has been that the rumor of the bundle's demise is overblown. 

Also speaking at the Pay TV Show, Wolfe Research analyst Marci Ryvicker said that cord cutting will eventually "even out," with around 70 million users remaining in the linear ecosystem. 

"I think the bundle is going to stick around for a while. People will start to come back," added Samantha Cooper, executive VP of distribution and development for Viacom, speaking on a Wednesday morning panel. 

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