The Future of TV in an Era of Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers

By now, YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix are all household brands. For many people they are new entrants that live alongside established home entertainment mainstays like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, DirecTV. But new research shows what the Gigaom video above articulates—1.1 million people said goodbye to those mainstays last year, cutting the cords that bind them to big-bill cable packages. And behind that generation of cord-cutters are those that have never even considered the cord, conducting as many aspects of their lives on their computers and mobile devices—especially their entertainment.

It’s easy then to understand the gold rush for original programming by so many non-Hollywood entities like Amazon, Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation, as well as the growing set-top market. There’s Roku, Apple has their waiting-for-an-update AppleTV, Google has Chromecast, and Amazon has just announced Amazon Fire TV, compact, streaming box with voice  search via the remote and “three times the power of” the former three competitors.

Amazon Fire TV may not be the first set-top box, and Amazon Studios may not be the first non-Hollywood shot at original series, but both have the Amazon trademark of innovation. “The goal of innovation isn’t simply to cast aside all previously held beliefs,” says Joe Lewis, head of original comedy programming at Amazon Studios, and TH5 panelist. “There are elements of the television viewing experience that have worked well since cable operators first mounted their antennas atop mountains in Pennsylvania in the 1940s. Progress is as much about knowing what can be improved as it is knowing what to leave alone.”

One way Amazon believes the television process can be improved is by inviting viewers and Hollywood outsiders into the development process. “An important mission of Amazon Studios is to bring our users into the process of making television. That doesn’t only mean that viewers get to help decide what pilots get turned into series. It also means that writers can create those pilots as well,” says Lewis.

That’s an exciting and enticing proposition for writers who might otherwise lack access to the inner-workings of Hollywood, and it doesn’t seem to be an empty gesture. From its latest round of pilots, it has given a series order to a series discovered through its submissions process, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life onNormal Street, from UCLA MFA Screenwriting alum David Anaxagoras. Amazon Studios offers $10,000 if a submitted series is added to their development slate and $55,000 if it goes into production. 

Do these new programming and streaming options foretell the end of an era in Hollywood or the beginning of a revised set of practices for creators and additional viewing options for binging viewers? Only time will tell, but on April 4 our A-list panel will explore this question and attempt to read the tea leaves. Join us as Andrew Wallenstein, editor-in-chief, digital for Variety moderates “The Programmers of the Future in an Era of Cord-Cutters and Cord-Nevers” with panelists Joe Lewis, Belisa Balaban (senior vice president, alternative and live programming, Pivot/Participant Media), Jamie Byrne (director, content strategy, YouTube), and David Craig (clinical assistant professor, USC, and producer, Media Nation). To buy tickets, visit

One thought on “The Future of TV in an Era of Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers”

  1. Traditional networks work hard to define a focus and brand. How does amazon define its instant video brand.

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