Cord-Cutter Confidential's predictions for 2016

2015 was a major turning point for the shift away from cable TV. Here’s what to expect in the year ahead.

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In terms of major developments for cutting the cable TV cord, 2015 will be hard to top.

Last year, we saw an explosion of new streaming services and major improvements in streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. How can 2016 do any better?

To kick off the new year, I’ve come up with some predictions, both optimistic and pessimistic. Here’s what I see happening on the cord cutting front in 2016:

The bundle will make a comeback (but in a good way)

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Although the bloated cable bundle has long outstayed its welcome, the concept of bundling is due for revitalization. Already, Amazon offers add-on streaming services for Amazon Prime subscribers, and Hulu offers discounted subscriptions to Showtime. Expect this type of bundling—where users still get flexibility, but save money by tying multiple services together—to expand in 2016.

Aggregation across apps will remain partly unsolved

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Right now, one of the biggest obstacles to cord cutting is complexity. Given the sheer number of streaming apps and services, it can be hard to figure out what’s available without diving into each one.

We’re starting to see some solutions now, with universal search on all the major streaming boxes, and Roku’s Feed feature that lets you track the arrival of new TV shows and movies. Still, none of the big streaming platforms have managed to deliver a comprehensive way to browse across apps. And given how protective services like Netflix can be of their core app experience, that’s unlikely to change by the end of 2016.

Someone will finally put broadcast DVR in the cloud

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After the death of Aereo in 2014, I thought for sure we’d see a legal take on cloud DVR for free broadcast channels. It didn’t happen last year, but there’s still reason to be optimistic. TiVo—which acquired the Aereo brand last year—has hinted at a legal version of the service, and Simple.tv announced a cloud DVR service last fall (albeit without clear plans for a U.S. launch). And with Microsoft bringing broadcast DVR to the Xbox One this year, perhaps cloud access won’t be far behind. In the meantime, users will have to rig up their own local storage solutions.

At least one more cable-TV network will defect from the traditional bundle

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While several premium channels like HBO and broadcast networks like CBS are already experimenting with streaming services, many regular cable networks (think Viacom, Discovery Networks, and A&E Networks) have yet to break away. Even if we don’t see a la carte streaming versions of their respective channels, my guess is at least one network will follow NBC’s strategy with Seeso and create something entirely new.

Data caps will be cable apologists’ bogeyman of choice

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Last year, we heard from cable-TV cheerleaders that cutting the cord is expensive (wrong) and that it puts quality television in danger (even more wrong). In 2016, expect cable lovers to point at data caps as the main reason ditching cable TV won’t save you money.

I’ll have more to say on this in a future column, but keep in mind that Comcast’s trial data caps only exist in a handful of markets, and they engender a spike in criticism and blowback every time they expand. Meanwhile, Time Warner and Charter have promised not to cap home Internet data for at least the next three years, and the tech industry keeps coming up with new ways to keep data use down for streaming video. Besides, fear over the future is a poor reason not to cut the cord, especially when you can start saving money right now.

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