1Q 2021: Showtime absorbs Starz with an eye to become the “new HBO” Starz and Starz Encore cease to exist as either streaming services or linear cable TV channels, with nearly all of their on-demand libraries absorbed into an enlarged Showtime service, which increases its direct-to-consumer standalone monthly price from $11 to $13. Nearly all current Starz series will continue on, rebranded as Showtime Originals. Showtime unveils a new redesigned app featuring 4K HDR plus live streams of their only four remaining linear channels: Showtime, Showtime Extreme, Showtime Showcase, and Showtime Movies. But Showtime says they remain committed to letting their customers access and view their content however they prefer, including through a range of third-party apps as add-on subscriptions via Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV Channels, Hulu, the NBCU SVOD, HBO Max and, of course, their own CBS All Access. The standard monthly price for Showtime distributed through cable operators and third-party digital distributors increases to $14. When added to a CBS All Access account, though, Showtime is priced at only $10. With recent feature films from their corporate sibling studios Paramount and Lionsgate, plus extended output deals with STX Studios and Amblin/DreamWorks/Participant, the service boasts a decent slate of theatrical films, although not too much in the way of superhero/comic book-based movies. On the contrary, Paramount’s recently announced prestige label, Paramount Signature, focuses on serious adult dramas that vie for Oscar nominations while Lionsgate’s new “indie” division aims to cultivate lower-budget auteur films. Showtime now offers slightly more hours per week of original premium content than the core HBO brand (though certainly not the broader HBO Max service). Showtime positions itself as the only remaining pure “premium” service aimed at the wealthier half of US adults, with a "snob-appeal" focus on edgy, taste-making originals plus a steady stream of new, quality feature films. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, the service sees itself as a higher-quality complement to more mainstream fare from CBS All Access, the major broadcast networks, and most of the content on Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. 1Q 2021: Charter launches Spectrum X1 TV Charter announces that they have deepened and extended their cooperation with Comcast on their shared mobile phone service platform (Xfinity Mobile / Spectrum Mobile) and also agreed to redistribute Comcast’s national OTT cable TV service X1 TV to their own Spectrum broadband subscribers under the white-label brand Spectrum X1 TV. It features all the same channel packages and pricing as the OTT X1 TV service but Spectrum broadband subscribers under a minimum one-year commitment who add Spectrum X1 TV to their account score up to 3 free X1 4K HDR streaming boxes for use with the service (one box for each line of service: broadband, mobile, home phone), a free one-month trial, plus the convenience of unified billing. X1 4K HDR boxes could be ordered directly from Charter at a 1/3 discount versus the standard retail price. Customers were also assured that Spectrum broadband would always remain data-cap free for anyone with Spectrum X1 TV on their account. Analysts said that the move shouldn't have been so surprising in retrospect. Back in spring 2019, Charter's CEO went on the record saying "I'm sort of indifferent" about whether or not Charter's broadband customers chose to also take their Spectrum TV service. Cable TV subscribers at that point were no longer even "a material driver" of Charter's business. The growing consensus among industry observers now was that only companies owning major sources of video content would continue to package and offer their own pay TV services. At the same time, Spectrum announces a six-month transition period to deprecate their traditional QAM-based Spectrum TV service (although it ultimately got extended three additional months beyond that). At the end of the period, they would eliminate all HD channels, some basic cable channels, and all add-on premium, sports or specialty channels. All that would remain on their traditional TV system would be a Basic (locals only + C-Span) package, a small Spanish-language package, and an Expanded Basic package containing most, though not all, of the non-premium channels that had constituted their Silver package. All channels, while SD, would be presented in their original aspect ratio, either 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 standard. None of the three packages would include “TV everywhere” streaming privileges. Customers already in possession of a Charter DVR could retain it (for the same ongoing monthly service fee) for use with the traditional SD-only TV service if they chose to stay on it. All new subscribers to the service would immediately be offered only one basic digital adapter and basic remote or one CableCARD at no additional charge. Additional adapters and remotes for extending service to additional TVs were offered for $5/mo each. The traditional SD-only service would not be actively advertised, only shown as an option on the Spectrum website and official rate card. 1Q 2021: Comcast announces deprecation of their QAM TV system Shortly after Charter’s similar announcement, Comcast reveals that by the end of 2021, the only channels that will remain available on their traditional QAM TV system will be SD versions of channels in their Basic and Extra packages. Customers will be able to keep their current hardware, including DVRs, but for the roughly 20% of customers NOT on IPTV-compatible devices (modern X1 boxes or streaming devices with the Xfinity Stream app), they will lose access to all HD channels, as well as any channels beyond the Extra package. New customers signing up for traditional QAM TV will exclusively be given basic digital adapters and remotes or CableCARDs. Comcast says that customers overwhelmingly prefer their new IPTV TV packages, with 4K HDR, cloud DVR, access to apps and a voice remote. Deprecating their QAM TV system will allow them to upgrade their network and devote more bandwidth for faster broadband performance. 1Q 2021: Netflix has peaked in the US? Netflix announces their financial results for 4Q 2020. While their reported figures are still seen as generally positive, analysts note that the company no longer provides subscriber numbers for the USA or any other individual company but rather focuses on their global subscriber count. While that number continued to rise, many on Wall Street suspect that Netflix ended 2020 with slightly fewer US subscribers than they started the year with, due to the all the increased competition from new SVODs Disney+, HBO Max, NBCU, Apple TV+, and Discovery, plus increased growth at Hulu and CBS All Access. Analysts continue to worry about the company’s debt load and loss of popular licensed content such as Friends and The Office, which have migrated to new competing SVODs. Netflix has to increasingly focus more on foreign markets for growth, such as Brazil and India, where they are forced to charge lower average subscription prices. Their international push also means that a growing slice of their budget for Netflix original content is devoted to non-English-language series and movies aimed at the tastes of those international audiences. 1Q 2021: TiVo exits the market for retail CableCARD DVRs, announces new ATSC 3.0 OTA DVR Following the announcements by Charter and Comcast, it was immediately obvious that there would be little market for sales of new CableCARD DVRs from TiVo or any other company, given that Comcast and Charter together accounted for nearly 3/4 of the total number of US cable TV subscribers who could use a CableCARD with their service. So TiVo and Arris, who had anticipated the moves for months, announce that they will immediately cease manufacture of new retail DVRs containing CableCARDs, although TiVo assures customers that they will continue to sell and deliver ongoing DVR service on a monthly, annual and lifetime basis to all existing TiVo units in the field, as well as provide the same level of customer support, including honoring warranties, that they had always done. To blunt the negative news on the cable DVR front, TiVo also announces that they will release an advanced new OTA DVR featuring hybrid ATSC 3.0/1.0 tuners, plus a range of popular Android TV apps via the Google Play Store, in late summer 2021.