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SME 2016: The Great Unbundling and Mass Rebundling

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Cord-cutters first made linear TV providers sit up and take notice several years ago. As Millennials moved out of their parents' homes, many elected not to buy cable subscriptions and instead turned to the web for their entertainment needs. Networks started taking notice, and we started see the likes of HBO and Showtime launching their own direct-to-consumer apps. DISH launched Sling TV, and other OTT skinny bundles are on the way. But not everyone is convinced that the "great unbundling" is here to stay.

Rich Greenfield, media & tech analyst at financial services provider BTIG, and moderator of "The Great Unbundling and Mass Re-bundling" panel at Streaming Media East, asked the panelists "What do consumers actually want?" The answers varied. Reggie Shah, Univision's director of network research, said it's all about content. "They will chase whatever bundle is necessary to get the content they want," Shah said.


But Amit Ziv, VP of business development, operations and strategy at Epix, said, "Consumers want flexibility, they want choice." He remained skeptical through most of the session that standalone video options were the way of the future. Rather, he thought bundles were "a more interesting business proposition."

David Gandler, CEO and co-founder of Fubo.tv, says there can be a sort of happy middle for consumers somewhere between cord cutting and premium cable packages—likening the video content spectrum to BMWs, and saying his company is to fit into the 5 Series space. "Networks continue to stuff linear channels into basic bundles…We look at this as an opportunity to reset the bundles," he says. In Fubo.tv's case, the company is taking aim at the 18-34 year old male demographic with plenty of sports content and movies.

Sports, of course, is traditionally one of the content types that keep people tethered to their traditional cable packages. Univision's Shah says his Spanish-language network's "content is viewed differently that English-language content"—with 90% live viewership, in part because of the popularity of sports with its audience. But it isn't just sports keeping Univision viewers coming back night after night. Its telenovelas air five nights a week, meaning viewers can't afford to miss a show. But all of this means that Univision has to give its audience as many choices as possible to keep up with the content anywhere at any time.

Like ZIv said, it boils down to choice. In the end, consumers win when they can get the content they want on their preferred platform.

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