Chicago--The cable "cord cutting" phenomenon is overrated, according to several cable executives at Cable Show 2011, but the industry still has to find ways to deliver and monetize content on alternative platforms to keep younger viewers engaged in cable TV services.
Mike Hopkins, president of affiliate sales & marketing for Fox Networks, said that cable is in a good position today as more people are watching television than ever before, but the industry needs to transition into delivering content to other platforms to maintain favor with younger viewers who are watching more content on tablets, smart and mobile phones.
"We just have to make sure the ecosystem we're in survives and grows - -we're doing a good job of getting people to watch our shows. We just have to continue to build that out and build it out and find ways to monetize the content," he said.
While young people will pay for high-speed broadband access, NBCUniversal president of TV networks distribution Bridget Baker said its less certain whether they'll automatically ante up for traditional cable service. She referenced an informal survey she conducted with several young NBC staffers in which the vast majority said they found out about Osama Bin Laden's death via Facebook or Twitter and not the traditional news channels.
"It's not a the question of whether [young people] will cut the cord of cable or even shave it, the question becomes ... when [do they] ever subscribe to cable?," said Baker during the "The Networked Network: TV Licensing for the Everywhere Era" panel session here Wednesday.
The good news is that unlike the music industry, young people today, according to Baker, don't expect television content on the web to be free but they do want it on demand on any platform they want.
"We have this opportunity whether it's TV Everywhere or authentication to get them to pay for content because they don't expect it to be given to them," she said.
Added Turner Network Sales COO Coleman Breland: "You have to adapt to what they're doing on tablets, mobile phones and PCs. You have to find a way to get the content to them and pull them into the ecosystem and support it."
One way of remaining relevant maybe to incorporate new delivery services like Netflix into the cable box alongside traditional networks, said Melinda Witmer, executive vice president and chief programming officer for Time Warner Cable.
Added Allan Singer, senior vice president of programming for Charter Communications: "if programmers want to create a syndication window to make money off of say Netflix that makes sense ... but I see it as a content aggregator and another opportunity to bring content to our customers."
As for the high cost of programming, network executives admitted that they'll continue to rise as consumers demand for more high quality content, so the industry will have to find ways to monetize those costs over different platforms to help fund these efforts. But Witmer said she doesn't see the industry moving toward charging a different fee for each device used.
Breland added that the industry hasn't done a great job in relating to consumers the value of cable. "If we did a better job [of selling cable's value] it might make it easier on the price pressures [the industry faces]," he said.
Sports programming costs in particular will continue to grow, but Witmer says that live sports programming is also among the most valuable programming from a viewership and advertising standpoint. "Sports really don't have an afterlife ... its incredibly expensive programming party because it doesn't have any substitutes," she said.