On the Money

Cord-cutting is leading to increasingly fractured TV audiences

Beth Corsentino
Changing channels
Changing channels

The content race is on.

Just this week Apple announced plans to invest $1 billion to buy and produce original programing next year. In 2016, HBO spent a reported $2 billion on content, and in 2017, Netflix plans to spend a whopping $6 billion. There's lots to watch, but is the viewer ready?

Recode Managing Editor Edmund Lee tells CNBC's "On The Money" that the medium is saturated with content and we've come a long way from the Big Network/ Prime Time mentality.

"Now with Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and all these other players, and Apple coming into the fray, you're not going to watch all that stuff. There's going to be different audiences for different shows. That's what we are seeing. There's a bit of a fracturing of the audience," he says.

Meanwhile, streaming services are growing. In the past 12 months Amazon Prime has reportedly doubled its subscribers to more than 80 million. Netlfix has a reported 50 million.

Compare that to the 48 million pay television subscribers in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of people have canceled their cable subscriptions in recent quarters. Is cable TV headed down the path of the dinosaur?

Lee believes so called "skinny bundles" could be a saving grace, offering subscribers more of what they want, less of what they don't — and at a savings. Lee explains that cable programmers typically sell the channels to the cable networks in bundles and that's how they are presented to customers.

But that's changing. "I think going forward you are going to see the $20, $30 maybe the $40 package that, sort of, hopefully gives you what you want."

The evolving technology has help customers cut the cable cord. But people who aren't technically inclined shouldn't worry about falling behind. Lee thinks eventually things will get easier.

"We're in this age right now where there is almost too much choice in terms of how the connectivity works," he said, adding: "But over time I think what you are going to see is sort of a unification of how these things are supposed to operate."

Even ultra-low tech is making a resurgence. A recent Wall Street Journal report says antenna sales in the U.S. are projected to rise 7 percent this year to nearly 8 million units. The article attributes the spike to millennials discovering that local broadcast TV is free for the taking.

Lee says he is a big fan of broadcast TV.

"I think it's something that whether it is millennials or you know, the rest of us, you have to realize there is free TV out there and there is a potential revitalization for that kind of content," he said.

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.