This year, HBO will be the first major cable network to embrace what many consumers have been clamoring for since the dawn of online video: a stand-alone streaming service. You won’t need to have a cable or satellite subscription to use it—just a Wi-Fi signal and a hankering to watch Girls. It’s a move tailored for the Netflix generation, who would much rather pick and choose what shows to watch than pay high premiums for cable packages stuffed with options they have no interest in, and it’s poised to set the industry on fire.
Industry insiders predict this could be the beginning of the end for cable as we know it, particularly if HBO can make its move profitable. But cable companies still have one ace in the pocket: live sports. ESPN has the rights to air NFL and NBA games until 2021 and 2025, respectively, which means the fight between consumer demand and corporate powerhouses will wage on for at least another 10 years.