By LYDIA BERGLAR
Several weeks ago, Tennessee Valley Net (TVN) sent out letters to 711 residential customers alerting them that the company’s linear television service will end on December 29 of this year.
Adam Austin (controller at TVN and Trenton Telephone Company) explained that while the demand for linear television continues to decrease, the company had not planned to discontinue the service this soon. However, the cable receivers (called set-top boxes) that TVN uses are reaching end of life in 2024. The cost to replace every set-top box would be significant.
He explained, “We turned on our first TV customer in August of 2012, and we saw a good demand for it, initially. But, with any product that involves technology, trends shift. We’re getting one to three customers a day that are dropping their TV product and keeping their fiber internet.”
Streaming dominates the television market, making the linear TV option from TVN obsolete. Austin said, “With streaming, if you want to watch a program, if you’ve got that app, you can watch whatever you want whenever you want to watch it, unlike linear TV. My children do not believe me that the only time I got to watch cartoons growing up was Saturday morning at 6 a.m. They went off about noon, and I had to go find something else to do.”
One concern for customers is how to access local channels. Austin said, “There are streaming products that offer local channels. People are able to subscribe to YouTube, Hulu, and more and still see local news and sports.”
While TVN only has 711 TV customers, they have approximately 4,000 internet customers. Most customers use the internet and various streaming subscriptions to access their preferred shows.
Austin said they saw a significant drop in demand starting at the end of 2020. “People were at home all day using the internet. Netflix boomed during that time. It steadily increased the number of customers who realized they don’t need to have linear TV; they can watch everything they want to watch through streaming.”
Another facet rendering linear TV obsolete is pay-per-channel costs that TV providers cover. TVN pays a fee per subscriber to rebroadcast each channel, essentially acting as the middleman. Subscription services cut out the middleman and are better able to negotiate with major channels, resulting in lower costs.
Austin explained, “CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS, and more channels are all under one company, and you can’t pick and choose which channels you retransmit. If you want one channel, you have to take them all and pay for each of those channels. That’s always been a big financial burden to sell TV.”
TVN has a TV set up in their office to show customers how to access local channels and use streaming services. Austin said, “Customers are more than welcome to come in, play with the remote, and get a feel for it. I understand that there are a lot of customers that have no experience with streaming, and we’d like to help them. There are a lot of streaming options, and most have free trials. We’re not pushing any one streaming product.”
Starting next year, TVN will only offer fiber optic internet service (with a landline at no additional cost) for the product’s current price of $69.95 per month. Austin concluded, “This will allow us to take the time and effort we’ve spent on TV to focus back on our network.”