Cable's customer base has been remarkably loyal. Only a relative trickle have cut the cord, and while the industry lost subscribers for the first time ever last year, the losses were minimal.
One way for the industry to keep people from seeking out alternative, most likely less expensive, forms of entertainment is to give them what they want. In some ways many cable companies have been doing that. Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), for example, recently rolled out an enhanced remote control with voice controls. A number of pay-television providers have also enhanced their TV Everywhere offerings, improving the digital viewing experience for their customers.
With cord cutting a sword held over the neck of the industry, giving customers the services and features they most desire can only be good for business. In this case it's very clear what cable subscribers want, and it makes sense for the industry to give it to them.
What do cable customers want most?
Beyond anything else cable subscribers want unlimited DVR storage space. In a survey of U.S. broadband homes, about 51% of those polled told Parks Associates they were "very interested" in that feature.
To offer unlimited DVR service, providers would almost certainly have to turn to the cloud. That's something Comcast has been testing with its X1 DVR with Cloud Technology platform (though the storage capacity is limited). A number of other providers also have cloud DVRs in some stage of testing, which makes sense since DVRs in general have been such a success. More than 50% of cable subscribers have some form of DVR, whether it is offered by their cable provider or sold at retail, according to MultiChannel News.
The Parks Associates' survey also showed that cable customers were heavily interested in two other products: a two-week catch-up TV service and multiscreen access to DVR-recorded shows.
Cable needs to make this happen
While cord cutting has not become a big thing just yet, it is becoming a more attractive option for consumers as offerings like DISH Network's Sling TV digital live-streaming service become known to a wider audience. For cable to stem the tide of potential lost customers, the industry should give its subscribers whatever they want.
Unlimited DVR storage, a two-week catch-up TV service, and multiscreen access to DVR-recorded shows are reasonable requests. Having a bunch of shows on a DVR to watch will act as a deterrent to abandoning cable. In general, offering more useful bells and whistles should be cable's goal as it stakes out space as a premium alternative to cutting the cord.