TV Networks Giving You More On-Demand Options To Combat Netflix, Cord-Cutting

Image courtesy of Phillip Pessar

Broadcast TV networks are freely available over the air, so you might think that they wouldn’t care too much about the growing number of people ditching cable in favor of streaming services. After all, viewers can still get the network shows and local news for the price of a decent antenna. Then you realize that networks are raking in billions of dollars each year from pay-TV providers and you see they have an incentive to try to keep you from cutting the cord.

Reuters reports that both TV networks and cable companies are bolstering their on-demand offerings as a way to stem the tide of viewers who prefer streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu and their vast libraries shows and movies that can be binge-watched at will.

Networks have long offered on-demand access to currently airing shows. However, many popular shows only have a limited number of episodes available. This is often because either the network doesn’t have the rights from the production company to make all previous episodes available, or because the pay-TV provider doesn’t want to pay extra for the full season of on-demand content.

With so many network shows — even sitcoms and reality competitions — having at least some semblance of a serialized storyline, it can be difficult to attract new eyeballs midway through a season. No one wants to keep pausing Big Brother to explain why everyone wants that Paulie guy out of the house but how he might be able to get back in because he may have a Round-Trip Ticket that he found in the Paris room, not to mention the drama that will occur with Zakiyah once he gets to the Jury House… right?

Meanwhile, Netflix and the other streamers allow users to start from the beginning and devour content without (or with limited) commercial breaks.

According to Reuters CBS, NBC, and FOX have each secured the rights to offer on-demand episodes of full current seasons for many of their biggest upcoming shows.

“Being able to catch up is clearly important,” CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller explains to Reuters. “Fans want to watch the shows when they want to watch them.”

What’s also important is advertising money. The more people are able to catch up, the more likely they are to watch the show live (or watch it on DVR within a few days of that original airing). That keeps the network and the cable company flush with ad cash.

Additionally, new on-demand technology allows cable companies to insert new ads into on-demand content. So you may be watching an episode that aired six months ago, but the ad (that you often can’t skip) is for a movie that’s coming out next week.

In two years, Comcast has doubled the percentage of content that will have full-season on-demand content available. With the fall TV season that’s about to kickoff, the cable giant says that 60% of original scripted TV shows on the 10 biggest channels will offer users the ability to catch up from the beginning of the current season.

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