Tech Week Ahead: Old Meets New In Fight Over Streaming Media

All Things Considered host Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Laura Sydell looking forward to the week's technology news, including some likely hand wringing at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas over the way people are watching shows in the digital era: by streaming video online.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

CORNISH: One of the big events in the world of old technology this week, the National Association of Broadcasters Conference in Las Vegas. And you can bet there's some hand-wringing over the way people are watching shows in the digital era - streaming video online. A growing number of people are happy enough with that they're no longer paying for cable and satellite TV. NPR's Laura Sydell joins me now. Hey there, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hey there. Let me play you something to make the point here.

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SYDELL: Recognize that?

CORNISH: Yes, we've talked about it on this program. Is that the theme from "House of Cards?"

SYDELL: Yes, and it's not a pretty sound to many broadcasters because the show, which stars Kevin Spacey, was produced by Netflix, and it was available online only. So people could watch it on TVs with Internet connections or on their tablet computers, et cetera. And there aren't a lot of shows produced that way yet, but that's the way it's going. And, you know, Netflix and Amazon make a lot of TV shows available, like "Breaking Bad," "Madmen," "Sons of Anarchy," so a lot of people are saying why bother subscribing to cable?

CORNISH: But just how many people are we talking about?

SYDELL: Well, the numbers aren't really huge yet, but it's growing. There are about five million households that have cut the cord, and there's still 100 million homes that have cable. But Nielsen, last month, just started monitoring the number of people who are starting to watch online. So you can see it's growing. And if you're budget conscious, you know, why pay 100 bucks a month for cable when you can have Netflix and Amazon for 15 bucks a month?

CORNISH: But plenty of people still buy cable. What's the deal there?

SYDELL: Well, the reason, I think, a lot of people stay is it has sports. So ESPN cannot be found in its entirety online, and then there are still those people who want to watch the latest "Breaking Bad" when it first airs over cable. But ultimately, I think the days of traditional cable are numbered.

CORNISH: Laura Sydell, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Laura Sydell.

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