America has long had a love-hate relationship with the cable/media giants for their constant fee increases, shoddy customer service, and slow integration of new technology. At the same time, who can blame them for taking advantage of the natural monopoly that they have enjoyed for decades?

Fortunately, viable alternatives to their services are becoming more and more pervasive in the American consumer subconscious. People are utilizing these alternatives at an increasing rate and big cable is feeling the sting. Comcast lost 275,000 subscribers last quarter alone and the cable companies are being attacked from all angles.

Web television services such as Hulu are already everywhere, and many traditional TV networks offer shows and content on their own websites for free. Software such as PlayOn aggregates web video content into a user-friendly "channels" format and displays it on your TV via a gaming console or other media device. With the emergence of faster 4G data networks, companies like CLEAR are offering internet service via the wireless networks traditionally reserved for smartphones. This is a less expensive alternative to traditional DSL or cable internet and can be accessed from anywhere a 4G signal can be found. Verizon Fios, At&T U-Verse, and both major satellite providers are also increasing their market share. As if this wasn't enough, as more and more users acquire and begin to use DVRs they are also having to deal with slowed advertising revenue growth as "ad-skipping" continues to increase.

Traditionally big cable has dealt with lost subscribers simply by raising prices to offset the lost revenue. This time, however, the cable companies are finding more ways to fight back.

All major cable providers have launched the ability to view content on their own websites in an effort to recoup lost ad revenue.

Comcast has started to combat the clever branding of Verizon Fios and AT&T U-verse by rebranding it's services as "Xfinity" and running ads that urge you, "don't fall for Fios."

Microsoft is in talks with the big media companies about developing a virtual cable service through the internet utilizing the Xbox as a video processor. Microsoft needs big cable's agreements with the networks, and big cable needs Microsofts software and web development expertise. This method of delivery is clearly the future. It sounds like a win-win if they can come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

Savvy consumers today are making as much effort as possible to stretch their hard-earned dollars. Businesses, however, sometimes forget about taking the time to control technology costs. If high speed data, cable video solutions, or other information technology infrastructure costs are eating into the bottom line of your business, it may be time for a Procurement Service Provider.
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Scott Decker

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