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PR Strategies to Combat Cable TV Cord-cutters

Published on April 9, 2022, at 8:44 p.m.
by Kyrsten Eller.

In the recent years of the digital era, the world has started turning to streaming services for entertainment purposes and moving away from traditional cable services. Key reasons for this change include features and strategies that traditional television lacks — binge-watching on demand being just one example.

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According to a recent study, 25.3 million people chose to cancel cable in 2021 alone, resulting in 50.2 million cord-cutters worldwide. With the vast advancements of technology, streaming is becoming the future of TV. It’s expected that 5 million more people will continue to cancel their cable throughout 2022, unless providers find effective ways to keep subscribers, particularly by using public relations strategies to maintain consumer relations.

According to former AT&T representative AJ Dantzer, “Just because streaming has become the new normal, doesn’t mean cable services don’t have the ability to improve consumer relationships; they just have to find the best way to offer their audiences what they want.” While there has been an evident increased interest in streaming, it has caused a downfall for the TV and advertising industries.

For example, with a customer’s ability to pay for ad-blockers on any streaming platform, it’s more difficult for the advertising industry to compete. However, according to ECI Media Management, one easy fix to improve messaging content to consumers is “to innovate and to adapt to these rapidly changing times.” By utilizing different public relations strategies, such as the use of shared media and messaging, companies can improve their services altogether. These communication strategies can help them reach and keep customers.

Customer loyalty and building rapport also play a big role in how cable companies keep customers. Focusing on customer service as a priority can create a positive outcome for a company’s reputation. When customers receive poor service, they are more likely to talk and complain, resulting in a bad reputation. A negative reputation can be even more difficult to bounce back from.

Another way that customer loyalty can “reel” users back in is through the use of offering services for free. As an example, in 2020 AT&T offered a free year of HBO Max to its customers and to those who signed up, providing them with an incentive. This type of incentive has also been used by Verizon as the company offered Disney+ for free with the switch to an unlimited plan. Incentives such as free subscriptions allow companies to keep their customers.

How streaming services are using PR for success
Since the digital rise of streaming, messaging has become more difficult due to advertising conflicts, such as ad-blockers. However, some streaming platforms have discovered ways around these issues by utilizing PR strategies.

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Founded in 1997, Netflix is by far the most popular streaming platform, totaling 214 million subscribers so far this year. The service has “forced cable companies to change the way they do business.”

Even WarnerMedia’s HBO Max “has begun experimenting with pre-roll advertising,” which is a way for ads to appear before the start of the user’s selected content in order to ensure attention. This method can be used within services that cable providers offer as a way to create engagement with their users.

Netflix has also mastered the use of PR strategies to grow its audience by the use of partnerships as a strategy to create further engagement. For one of Netflix’s most popular original TV shows, Stranger Things, it was able to work with Topshop, a U.K. fashion retailer, to create an exclusive line “due to the popularity of the characters’ retro outfits.”

It has also shaped some of its fans into brand ambassadors, which means they are “essentially doing Netflix’s PR for them” since over 60% of millennials alone trust what influencers say, according to a 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report. This strategy is one of the most effective ways a streaming service has used public relations to cultivate consumer relationships in this industry.

How cable companies keep subscribers
Although cable companies are becoming disfavored in this streaming age, some are managing to keep their customers by the use of bundling. According to Consumer Reports, one reason people are hesitant to cancel cable subscriptions is that they “won’t really be cutting ties with [their] TV provider — that same company may provide [their] internet connection.”

According to Dantzer, AT&T specifically has implemented its own streaming service as a way to keep its current customers and compete with the world of streaming. “AT&T TV, which is now DirecTV Stream, is a streaming service app for your TV,” said Dantzer. “You get a lot of channels, and you can pick out what you want while also having the opportunity to bundle. It’s a way that the company can stay competitive in the market and have multiple services to offer so that it keeps its customers satisfied.”

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One competitive aspect is the use of bundles, especially with other streaming services. AT&T Account Manager Tess Conly said, “With DirecTV Stream, people also have the ability to add multiple channels. The company overall keeps subscribers by incentivizing them to do product packaging with deals on their other products and a major discount on the TV service. It allows for a great opportunity.”

Conly also stated that as far as competition, one of the company’s most prominent strategies that enables it to compete is that “since it’s a streaming service for everything, it has one set price, which is easier than paying for multiple subscription services separately.”

Being innovative with new strategies and constantly adjusting to change can be the root of success in any company. Conly explained, “It’s important for any company, no matter what industry, to keep up with changes because that’s how we can learn what resources we need to be successful.”

Overall, PR can be an essential key for success in the TV industry. With the rise of streaming’s popularity, cable companies are losing some of their consumers to streaming service providers. However, through the use of innovative strategies and engagement, the entire TV industry can likely find success.

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