Couch potatoes pause cable TV, get into the streaming flow

Generation Z cuts the cord on previous generations’ love for cable television.

Emma Uffelman and Mara Korzeniowska, Acalanes High Schools

Generation Z cuts the cord on previous generations’ love for cable television.

Imagine, but for a moment, flumping down on the couch and browsing through various channels, desperately looking for something to watch. This is what watching television looked like for many people in the past, but it may not be what it looks like in the future.

   Cable TV has been consistently losing subscribers, with more viewers switching to cheaper alternatives. As Acalanes students consume media, they seem to push cable TV to the side.

   While older generations prefer cable TV, a study by the Pew Research Center found that only 34 percent of Americans, aged 18 to 29, own cable. The same study revealed that the number of Americans who watch cable TV has decreased by 20 percent since 2015.

   Some Acalanes students believe that the reason for this age-based disconnect may be because of tradition and the older generations’ unwillingness to change to streaming services.

   “I don’t think young people are really going to ever subscribe to cable TV, whereas people who have it now and who have had it since it began likely will keep it for the foreseeable future,” Acalanes senior Ari Bloch said.

   A survey of the Acalanes student body echoed this conclusion. Although 61.1 percent of student families still subscribe to cable TV, 94.7 percent of students watch the majority of TV shows and movies on streaming platforms. In addition, 68.4 percent of students surveyed revealed that their families subscribe to at least three streaming services.

   “All of the big shows that people are watching nowadays are on streaming services. Everyone is talking about series that are Netflix and other services,” Acalanes sophomore Ben Whiting said.

   One of the most substantial reasons for abandoning cable TV is the larger amount of media that streaming services offer. While cable TV only has a certain number of shows playing at a time, streaming services allow viewers to select from a vast library of shows.

   Another reason for Generation Z’s lack of interest in cable TV may be dwindling attention spans. While television was the primary media for past generations, children and teenagers nowadays have many other options.

   “I think people’s attention span is really short, so three minute videos or one minute videos really appeal to people’s attention span and they can find what they want to watch without actually searching for anything,” Bloch said. 

   Many consumers also point fingers at the price tag attached to cable TV: 63.2 percent of students in the aforementioned survey responded that cable TV was “too expensive.” Some consumers would rather switch to cheaper alternatives than pay for bundles of channels that don’t interest them. 

  Despite the drawbacks of cable TV, customers still have valid reasons to subscribe. For example, many streaming services like Netflix restrict the number of shows available on their platforms, often rotating older content.

   “My dad really likes to watch older movies, and those aren’t always on streaming platforms,” Acalanes junior Zach Robb said.

   Special events also remain a prominent holdout for the cable TV industry. Occasions like the Olympics, the Oscars, the Grammys, and some sporting events are almost exclusively aired on cable TV.

   “I use cable for sports because it’s really expensive to watch sports through streaming platforms,” Robb said.

  Nevertheless, an increasing number of streaming platforms like YouTube TV, Hulu+, and ESPN+ now feature live sporting events. Although they may be expensive now, this could change in the future.

   At the moment, the future of cable TV looks grim, but only time will tell the fate of this declining industry.

   “I feel like currently, streaming services have won, but if cable does something super unique that streaming services can’t, I think it might have a chance,” Acalanes senior Mathew Koo said.