Everyone loves to pit emerging technology against its predecessors. The crossbow versus the sword, records versus CDs, Segways versus walking — okay, maybe not the last one. Much like some kind of karate master, new tech must, in the public’s mind, defeat the old tech that inspired it in order to be considered a total success.
Case in point: streaming internet TV versus standard cable TV. Across the web, journalists, casual observers, and analysts are working themselves into a furor over when and if streaming services like Netflix and Hulu will dethrone the king of entertainment, cable TV. It has everyone guessing and tossing their proverbial hats in the ring.
Well, everyone except Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton.
In a recent interview with BBC Future, Lynton expressed his belief that the war between cable and streaming TV was anything but. According to Lynton, streaming services are strengthening cable TV and making it significantly more vibrant. The Sony CEO explained that streaming TV offered viewers “catch-up TV,” which allows them to stay current on new programs. Previous to streaming services, Lynton explains, if viewers missed an early episode of a TV show, the chances that they would drop off the show were heightened. With Netflix and Hulu, however, viewers have access to backlogged episodes, which they can catch up on then watch new episodes in real time.
It’s an interesting theory Lynton is presenting, especially as it hypothesizes that increased viewing will attract better writers and directors, which will bolster cable TV as a whole. Much of this, Lynton says, will be because of the catch-up watching nature of streaming TV. It is a theory that not only negates the semi-overblown war between streaming and cable but also one that suggests that Netflix and Hulu-style platforms are, in fact, making cable stronger.
And although Netflix is presented as a different platform in most cases, the streaming service views itself as less of a TV replacer and more of a channel itself. Much like HBO, Netflix has a host of (now Emmy-worthy) original shows. The streaming service has also expressed a desire to become the next HBO-like network even going as far as launching natively on a handful of European set-top boxes.
Lynton’s stance on cable thriving isn’t totally unfounded. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey showed that cable is still king. The survey, which was conducted to measure streaming versus cable audiences, showed that cable is still used by 70% of content-seeking audiences versus Netflix’s 56%.
According to the survey, cable is winning the war. However, for Lynton, there was never any war to begin with.