A New Crack in Cable's Monopoly: WealthTV

One Network Bypasses Cable and Goes Straight to the Box

By Published on .

Jim Louderback
Jim Louderback
You may have missed it, but we just passed a major milestone in the changing of the TV business model.

Today, for the first time, a full-blown 24/7 U.S. cable channel is now available directly to consumers, outside of the bundle, via a popular over-the-top device.

OK, it's not one of the top channels. It's probably not one you actually want. And at $3 a month, it's a bit too expensive. But it's like the singing frog or the licking dog. Who cares how good it is, the fact is that you can -- and soon, we all will.

That's right, you can now subscribe to WealthTV, via the inexpensive Roku set-top box, and get exactly what Charter, AT&T, Verizon and many other cable/satellite customers are already receiving via their multichannel packages.

This is huge for a couple of reasons. First, it offers a way through the multichannel thicket, and offers the promise that other, more popular networks, will transition to direct to customer and bypass those middlemen that take a disproportionate part of every TV dollar.

Second, it offers a real validation of the Roku box, one that has been ideal for on-demand services (full disclosure: my company, Revision3, is the No. 1 video channel on Roku). Now, finally, the box supports both 24/7 streamed channels and the payment and authorization mechanism to allow other paid services into the system.

Yes, it's not ESPN, Animal Planet or Comedy Central. But it's the first crack in the walled garden. And it's not going to be the last. For the last five years the internet video industry has focused on the on-demand world. But why not create linear, continuous channels? I expect to see more marginal cable channels move to Roku, Boxee, the Yahoo Connected TV platform and elsewhere. But why not create new always-on channels too? I expect we will see those soon as well.

And the over-the-top innovation won't stop there. I'd love to see a Chinese menu-style package on Roku, Boxee or some of the other devices. Let me pay $20 a month, and build my own lineup of Netflix, Revision3, WealthTV, the Weather Channel and a couple of others. Because that, in the end, is what consumers really want. Predictability, lower cost, and the ability to pick the channels they love. And perhaps, just perhaps, a little bit more wealth as well – which we'll get if we don't have to pay for channels we just don't care about.

Jim Louderback is CEO of Revision3 Internet Television in San Francisco.
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