SHREWSBURY – Nearly half of SELCO’s basic subscribers have cut the proverbial cord, according to a presentation to the Select Board Jan. 24.
The Select Board met with SELCO General Manager Christopher Roy to discuss the cable franchise agreement.
According to Roy’s presentation, Shrewsbury was one of the first municipalities in the commonwealth to have a municipally-owned cable TV system. Now, Shrewsbury is one of two left in Massachusetts, and the only without in-town linear competition.
“I’d bold enough to say there was obviously change from  to 2013, but this last decade has been a tremendous change in how society digests and views content,” said Roy.
According to his presentation, in 2003, SELCO had 11,594 basic subscribers. Ten years later, that amount decreased to 11,526, and it dropped to 5,885 in 2023. This constitutes 49% of SELCO’s subscriber base, Roy said.
The key question, Roy said, is where are these customers going.
It’s not like people have stopped watching TV,” said Roy. “That’s the key takeaway … is we are now in a competitive market. Where before we were the sole provider of linear TV, everyone had to consume television through our linear service. They’re going to Hulu. They’re going to Netflix. They’re going to Prime, Fubo. The list goes on and on and on.”
However, Roy noted that the internet is shifting to be the “basis for everything.”
According to his numbers, in 2003, SELCO had 3,754 internet subscribers. That has increased to 13,557 in 2023.
Roy discussed the different ways the technology has changed over the years. In November, SELCO Stream was launched. It includes SELCO’s video lineup with an enhanced guide, subscription video on demand, restart TV, catch-up TV, Cloud DVR and smart highlights.
SELCO Stream currently works on Android TV, FireTV, Apple iOS and Android devices.
The role of linear TV continues to rapidly evolve. We need to continuously monitor our business model to remain competitive,” said Roy.
He continued, “Things are changing. The rinse and repeat of how we’ve operated over the past decades is not necessarily the most successful path forward.”
In the future, SELCO plans to offer a more robust WiFi system, and the organization is underway in its efforts to build out fiber to the home. According to Roy’s presentation, nearly 40% of Shrewsbury has the ability to receive an all fiber connection, and SELCO is anticipating the entire town will be able to receive it by 2024.
Fiber is the backbone of all SELCO services, said Roy.
SELCO proposed a five-year renewal term for the cable franchise agreement instead of a 10-year term. The agreement would be automatically renewed if there are no changes.
Roy also noted that Shrewsbury Media Connection (SMC) is primarily funded by a portion of the subscriber revenue. He noted that SMC’s business model is facing challenges, and the proposal would provide a boost to SMC funding as they explore their options.
“It’s always concerning to me when people stop their cable subscription because of the impact on Shrewsbury Media Connection,” said Select Board member Beth Casavant. “They’re the backbone of the way we are able to communicate out with the residents.”
People depend on SMC, she said.
“Anything we can do together to make sure that Shrewsbury Media Connection remains viable and able to provide services to the community is important to me,” said Casavant.
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