Barclays: Cord-cutting isn’t worth the modest savings

You don’t save enough by replacing your pay TV subscription with over-the-top services to justify the loss of available content. That was the conclusion put forth Thursday by Barclays media analyst Anthony DiClemente, as he broke down the value proposition for litigation-challenged start-up Aereo for investors.

Also read: Aereo TV will stream for months as court case simmers

In his report, DiClemente cast long odds for Aereo, the cloud-based programming service funded by media mogul Barry Diller, which seeks to stream broadcast TV channels with a DVR interface to tablets, notebooks and over-the-top boxes for $12 a month.

Even if Aereo emerges intact from its court battle with broadcasters, DiClemente surmises, it’ll find itself positioned as merely “one more over-the-top distributor” in a realm he feels has limited long-term consumer appeal.

Also read: Suggested trend – “Cord Trimming”

“In our view, dropping cable TV in favor of a bunch of over-the-top alternatives may not result in as much incremental savings as one might initially think,” DiClemente states.

For one, he explains, broadband internet is more expensive as a standalone service. DiClement’s example: if you drop a $60 video service from a $90 pay TV subscription, the internet portion is likely to increase from $30 to $50 a month, negating a third of the savings. The net price of your video ends up being only $40.

Putting together an over-the-top programming package that would include Aereo for broadcast channels ($12 a month), a subscription VOD service like Netflix ($8) and a few movie purchases from a retailer like iTunes (he estimates $10 a month), DiClemente says the combined monthly price of $30 a month doesn’t compare favorably to the net price of $40 a month for pay TV.

“We think many consumers may feel that the incremental $10 of monthly savings is not enough to give up the convenience and breadth of content of the cable bundle,” he writes.

As for Aereo, DiClemente believes that even if it wins the right to re-transmit broadcast signals in court, the “deep-pocketed” broadcast networks could keep it bogged down in appeals for the foreseeable future — or at least long enough to negate Diller’s $20 million investment.

If Aereo were able to prevail in court, DiClemente sees the service as being only marginally disruptive to the current television model.

— Impact on broadcast re-transmission fees would be minimal: “We argue that the cable distributors already make retransmission payments to the TV stations/networks even though consumers can currently watch free-to-air broadcast through their TV sets,” DiClemente writes. “A ruling in Aereo’s favor would not change this.”

— Ad revenue could conceivably be impacted: DiClemente adds that if cable and satellite did lower re-transmission fees in response to Aereo, media conglomerates may begin migrating their premium broadcast content to their cable networks. They would increase the carriage fees they charge multi-channel operators, but they would lose out on the higher commercial prices enjoyed on broadcast platforms.

— Cable’s TV Everywhere initiative could suffer: If Aereo were to achieve widespread adoption, consumers would have a very viable alternative for watching TV over tablets and over-the-top devices, DiClemente argues.