By Sahil Patel
What’s the biggest thing scaring the cable companies right now? The growing — and it is growing — threat of “cord-nevers,” otherwise known as millennials who have never paid for television, and as a result are not likely to once they are living on their own.
It’s a serious issue. According to a recent study by nScreenMedia, 19% of millennials currently live without pay-TV, and 98% of those have no intention of signing up in the next three months.
To date, most attempts by the cable companies to combat this issue has come in the form of TV Everywhere services, which allow customers to stream content across a number of digital devices — as long as they still pay for those channels. Some companies are also attempting to launch “internet TV” services, which would offer a smaller bundle of TV channels over the web at a cheaper price.
In essence, TV companies aren’t willing to let go of the TV model.*
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the latest attempt to get millennials to pay for TV is the same story, but in a slightly different packaging.
Comcast, the largest cable company in the US, is launching Xfinity On Campus, a new service that will let college students watch live and on-demand TV programming across web-connected devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones while on campus.
The service is launching with several colleges on board, including Bridgewater College, Drexel University, Emerson College, Lasell College, and the University of Delaware, as well as others like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Hampshire that are “trialing” the program with students in the fall.
Xfinity On Campus will offer approximately 80 channels, including every major broadcast network as well as cable favorites like AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, ESPN, FX, and MTV. Students will also be able to check out TV shows on-demand via Xfinity On Demand, as well as upgrade to premium channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz.
And if students happen to be off campus, they will be able to use their university credentials to authenticate and access TV Everywhere apps like WatchESPN and FX Now. Soon, Comcast will also launch a cloud-based DVR service that will allow students to record and watch their favorite shows on devices, as well as “check-out” recordings by downloading them to the device for offline viewing.
Students won’t have to pay for the service — at least not directly; it will be included as part of room and board for those living in on-campus housing.
The hope, rather obviously, is that these students get accustomed to having cable TV as part of their daily lives, and will continue that practice once they leave college.
The party line is that services such as this are in response to viewing habits among younger consumers. “Xfinity on Campus lets students watch TV on their own terms,” said Marcien Jenckes, EVP of consumer services for Comcast Cable, in a statement. “With this younger generation, more and more viewing is happening away from the traditional TV set and we have evolved our products and services to better engage them.”
But the truth is, the issue isn’t delivering content to the devices that consumers are increasingly on, but getting them to continue paying the way they always have been.
* Because that’s still where the money is.