Here we are again at the beginning of a new year. 2019 marks year 13 of The Solid Signal Blog, and the beginning of year 8 of my stewardship of it. It’s time for me to make a series of predictions that probably will make everyone laugh at the end of the year. But hey, that’s what I’m here for.
I really think streaming will be interesting in 2019. And, not necessarily “good interesting.” I’m actually a little worried about the state of streaming in 2019, to be honest.
In 2012, if you streamed you probably had Netflix or the free version of Hulu. You paid one bill, at most. Now, where are you? You probably pay for both Netflix and Hulu, and you might also have Prime Video, CBS All Access, HBO Now, Starz, and a few other subscription services. If you’ve cut the cord you might have Sling or DIRECTV NOW, or at the very least AT&T Watch or Philo.
In short, you paid more than ever for streaming content in 2018 and I’m afraid that trend will continue in 2019. We’re expecting new content sources from AT&T and Disney. Not just one but several of them. Both companies would like to remove their content from Netflix and Prime and move it to another service you’re willing to pay for. Disney will take effective control of Hulu so it’s hard to know how that will work out.
I’m worried that by this time next year you’ll be asked to pay for 10 different services, at least $10 each, and you’ll end up paying more than you did for traditional pay TV. That could cause the entire streaming ecosystem to crash.
Mo’ commercials, mo’ problems
I think you’ll see big growth in commercial-laden streaming services in 2019. The lower tier of all these new streaming services will probably be pretty cheap, but you’ll sit through commercials you can’t forward past. I’m not sure that’s an improvement from where we were in 2018 and before.
I forecast that you will read roughly 518,000 articles in the coming 12 months that forecast the death of pay television. Honestly, I don’t buy it. I think pay TV still has a long life ahead of it. Of course we’ll all eventually move to the internet but there are still 100 million households with pay TV. The days of massive growth may be over but that doesn’t mean pay TV is over.
If nothing else, a pay-TV subscription may be the cheapest way to get all the content from those streaming apps. Today if you have DIRECTV Satellite you have access to dozens of apps that give you on-demand content. Paying one bill to AT&T might make more sense even if you never actually use the live TV product.
I think the sharp rise in costs due to all the new streaming apps will slow the decline of pay television until people can get a handle on how to watch what they want without paying an arm and a leg.
On the other hand, I don’t expect pay TV costs to go down. Pay TV may position itself as a premium alternative and eliminate the low-cost tiers that were just designed to get people to sign new contracts.
There’s still every indication as I write this that AT&T will launch its T16 satellite to carry even more 4K and HD content, but that may be the last one they launch for a long time if ever.
Cellular and Internet
In 2019 you won’t be able to talk about internet without talking about cellular. For all the talk of 5G cell phones, I still think the first wide implementations of 5G will be providing internet to buildings. I think wire-based internet is probably as good as it will get, and hopefully we’ll see a lot of competition as cellular companies rush to offer super-fast internet to new customers.
Average internet speeds should continue to go up as all providers upgrade their equipment, and it would be nice to think that by the end of 2019 the US could have internet as fast as what South Korea had in 2015.
On the cellular front, I predict having about 7 tantrums about the impending merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, which I continue to think will be disastrous for all involved.
On the up side I expect AT&T to continue building out ever faster cell towers and we’ll see a lot more speed and capacity as cell providers start using frequencies that were once reserved for television.
Get ready to pay more for your phone
I’m not sure I like the trend, but I can’t deny that new phone prices will continue to inch toward $1,500. It’s hard to imagine that we have gone from prices in the $200-$300 range under contract to today’s prices, but that’s where we’re at. People want larger and fancier phones and that costs money. The good news is that these new superphones will probably keep better resale value unless you drop them, so get a good case and you’ll make up some of that money when you buy the next one.
If you don’t want a $1,500 phone you’ll be able to buy a refurbed or used phone that will still be super awesome. And of course if you’re not a “heavy user” there will be options in that $200 or less range that are still better than they ever were.
Antennas and Over-the-Air Broadcasting
Will we see 4K over-the-air in 2019? It’s very unlikely. You may see some pilot broadcasts but this won’t be the year that 4K takes over. First of all there’s still no 4K content from major networks. It’s possible that production houses have already started producing in 4K, but even the streaming sites aren’t showing any content from broadcast networks that’s even close to 4K.
I forecast some growth in VHF antennas this year because the “repack” will drive many channels “down spectrum.” Luckily you’ll see a lot of options for VHF antennas. Pretty much every manufacturer realizes that you must be able to get channels 7-13 now.
I would like to hope that I could be a little more optimistic about the programming on broadcast TV this coming year but the last several years have shown that if you really want quality writing you need to go to pay TV or streaming. Over-the-air TV broadcasters seem really content to have programs that appeal to people on a really basic level. There’s nothing wrong with that of course and the nice thing is that there’s room for all sorts of TV.
See you in 2019!
Of course in 2019 The Solid Signal Blog will continue to be the thought leader for all things technological. We moved to a new platform in 2018 and the result was great — our readership doubled. As a result we moved to an even more robust server and we’re here ready to serve even more people in the coming year.