Solid article, I agree on so many levels.
- The PC is dead meat, I figure I might buy maybe one more in my life.
- TV’s are next, last TV I bought was 5+ years ago and I’m confident I’ll never buy another one.
- My family still watches TONS of video, but not TV. All the way from my 40 year old ass down to my 5 year old daughter we would much rather stream. BONUS, no mind numbing commercial breaks.
- Cable companies are doomed if it wasnt for sports, but also at the same time my sports watching has gone down 90% in the last few years. The annoyance of commercials, brutally stupid announcers and soul crushing production will eventually kill sports on TV too. And thusly cable companies.
- Thesis: Short sell every old line PC company, TV manufacturer’s, and Cable Companies.
Sony abandoned the PC market on Thursday, but that wasn’t the news that caught my attention.
It was hardly surprising that the Japanese electronics giant would finally pull the plug on its VAIO PCs. VAIO is a fading brand in a fading market. But as someone who hasn’t followed Sony closely, I was surprised to hear how badly its television business was also struggling.
For me, Sony is TV. The first television I ever encountered as a kid was my family’s 17-inch color Trinitron, the kind with the knob that clicked through the orange backlit numbers of thirteen VHF channels plus ‘U’ for UHF. I watched Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers on that TV. I watched CHiPs.
Since then, like everyone else, the way I watch television has changed profoundly. And when I think about what’s changed, Sony’s struggles make perfect sense. Its TV business may even follow its PC business into the past tense.
Today, I don’t have a TV. That’s exactly the kind of pretentious thing you might expect from a parent living in the famously liberal locale of Berkeley, California, but the truth is that my family and I are also total posers. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, YouTube. There’s no doubt we watch at least as much as families in the pre-internet era. And probably more. Between smartphones, a tablet, and laptops, we have more than enough screens for everyone to watch exactly what they want — at any time.
The choice not to have a TV wasn’t super-conscious, nor all that moralistic. I think my wife and I just don’t want such a big, blatant object of distraction in our living room. I guess we just prefer idiot boxes we can put in our pockets.
Judging from the big, bright screens visible through our neighbors’ windows, I don’t think we’re the norm. But the fact that we even have that choice says a lot about Sony’s TV woes, and the decline of TV sales in general. Yes, saturation is partly to blame: many people have all the TVs they need. But many don’t need new TVs because they have computers and phones.
Better Screens Do Not Make a Better Business
My situation shows you can even get by without a TV at all. I am just as fluent in Mad Men and Breaking Bad as anyone — also Justified, The Shield, The Americans, and, yes, The Good Wife. Obviously, I don’t need to buy another piece of hardware to keep up — unless I want a bigger screen for vegging out.
Sony itself says it plans to focus the energies of its new TV spinoff on premium 4K models and move away from the budget screens. That too makes sense. If you have a tablet, you don’t need a budget TV as your second screen.
But even the high-end TV business is already starting to sound like a niche, not a mass market. And I’d argue that bigger, better screens are not enough of a foundation on which to build a thriving global business. Like casual gamers who don’t bother buying consoles, I’d call myself a casual viewer. I’d have my phone and computer anyway. If I can watch on them too, that’s what I’ll do. I’m not in the majority, but I also bet I’m not alone.
The big asterisk here is live sports. Because I don’t have a TV, I also don’t have cable. This means I can’t even watch sports on the apps that stream games to cable subscribers. As sports are for the cable industry, they are probably the last, best line of defense for the TVs themselves. If you want to watch sports, you get cable. And if you have cable, you’ll get a TV.
Lest you think I’m an anti-sports sadist, my kid and I walk down to the corner neighborhood joint for burgers and ballgames all the time. Especially for big games, that’s more fun anyway. When Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, the cheering, foot-stomping, and toasting with strangers was a better experience than any you could have sitting at home by yourself. I’m happy for Sony or whoever else to keep making bigger, crisper, more vividly colorful monitors to hang up in sports bars around the world. But for everything else, I’m pretty happy with whatever screen I can carry.