Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is it time to cut the cord on the television?

Penetration of traditional pay TV services may have peaked.
A decade ago, I was a media sales rep and consulting with a spa store owner on an advertising buy. I was learning his business and digging down deep into his business acumen in order to create a sound marketing plan.

As our discussion progressed, I realized that Mr. Golden had read everything he could get his hands on to be successful in business. I was impressed and began to enjoy our discussion even more.

We entered the point in our conversation of sizing up the competition.

He had come to the conclusion that the other spa companies in town were not his competition. He could beat them hands down on quality, service, knowledge and price. The real competition, he believed, was everything else in life vying for his customer's leisure time.

I was young enough to be surprised by his conclusion.

I was old enough to consider it.

Mr. Golden was right.

The competition was not other businesses trying to be a mirror-image of his, or a even a close second cousin. It was all of life's distractions that diverted his customer's time, energy, money and motivation from visiting his store and buying a spa.

I thought about Mr. Golden today. Several years ago, he died unexpectedly, and at his funeral I clenched my emotions tight to be able to share what his friendship meant to me and how we had laughed when I'd leaned back in a patio chair in the store, lifting the two front legs off the floor, and almost fell over backwards when the plastic chair wobbled. His unexpected leap to save me from falling on my head is an embarrassing yet favorite memory.

Right now, it feels like the front legs of business are lifted off the floor and we're balancing precariously between who we think our competition is and what really stands in the way of reaching our intended destination.

I read with interest a forecast from research firm SNL Kagan estimating the number of US families who will cut the cords to their cable, satellite or telco TV service in deference to Internet video options. I've never understood pay-TV, and I've never paid for cable. Why would I pay someone to watch their commercials? I may not have the variety of choices on Hulu, but I when I push play, it's on my time, not theirs, and without any fancy equipment programming.

The competition is not a better cable company, a better television program, or even unlimited channel choices. It might be Hulu. It might also be Facebook, Foodspotting, Foursquare, Gmail, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Plancast, Posterous, Slideshare, Twitter, Upcoming, Yahoo or UStream.

It may be my blog.

As the online landscape morphs and rolls in earthquaking variations, I wonder where the legs of the business chair will land.

I just hope there will be someone like Mr. Golden who can see what will happen if someone doesn't jump in before it's too late, grab the chair firmly and get all four legs on the floor so we can focus on our business model, understand who or what the competition truly is and plan accordingly before we fall on our head.

Who is your unexpected competition?