That's the question confronting cable and satellite-TV providers as they do everything they can to prevent young people from ending their pay-TV contract -- or simply opting never to get one.
The number of pay-TV subscribers is declining as viewers increasingly get their video from streaming platforms led by Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report , Hulu and Google's (GOOG) - Get Report YouTube. The number of households in the U.S. that don't have a cable or satellite contractclimbed to 16 million in June from 14 million a year ago, according to Nielsen.
Unlike larger pay-TV operators, Cablevision (CVC) began offering a smaller bundle of channels to its subscribers in the New York metropolitan area back in April. Rather the dancing around the matter of user declines, Cablevision called its new packages "cord cutter offers," and began marketing alternatives to the traditional 150-plus channel package.
On such offering runs for $34.90 per month and includes a free digital antennae for up to 40 channels for free local broadcasting, access to WiFi spots in its service area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. That's a stark contrast to larger channel packages that can run over $100.
But the fate of Cablevision's so-called "skinny bundle," rests with its wold-be acquirer, Europe's Altice, which agreed to buy the Bethpage, N.Y.-based company earlier this month in a deal valued at $17.7 billion.
Although an aggressive cost-cutter, Altice is likely to stick with the slimmer offering for consumers as the industry tries to ferret out its most profitable content offering strategies amid changing consumer demands and habits, said technology and media analyst Jan Dawson, founder of Jackdaw Research.
Skinny bundles, or package offerings with fewer channels for a more affordable rate, are "an important area of experimentation for the industry at the moment and it's something that a lot of customers clearly want right now -- a smaller, more focused cable package," Dawson said.
He said that Altice is likely to keep the new cord-cutter bundle that Cablevision began offering earlier this year as "a way to drive disruption and innovation in the market." He added that media companies have started offering similar bundles to retain customers who might leave cable for streaming services.
"The question is how big is the segment of customers that would want this kind of packagage -- and nobody really knows," Dawson said. "It's an important new option in the industry but it's clearly not the kind of package everyone is going to migrate to and it's very hard to gauge its success from the outside. The cable companies don't want everyone to migrate to these bundles."
Consumers are demanding more affordable cable packages with fewer options than traditional packages that provide hundreds of channels. Pay TV providers are trying to gauge whether the time is right to address that demand.
Cablevision, which declined to comment, so far has been mum on exact subscriber numbers, but industry experts like Steve Birenberg of Northlake Capital, say Cablevision is a known innovator in the industry and should to continue promoting the skinny bundles for the time being.
"Cablevision has always been an aggressive player, trying new and different things," Birenberg said in a phone interview with TheStreet. "Cablevision was the first to try a cloud-based DVR and was the first to use wifi so aggressively. It's in their DNA to stick with a skinny bundle like this."
The Altice acquisition of Cablevision includes debt and is expected to close in the first half of 2016. Cable vision shares spiked about 17% last week as a result and remain trading at four-year highs.
Altice Monday said it scaled back its bond offering that will be used to fund the acquisition, indicating that "fixed income investors are skeptical about the synergies assumptions embedded in the deal," said James Ratcliffe, an anayst at The Buckingham Research Group, in a Sept. 28 note.
As for Altice's interest in keeping the skinny bundle, Birenberg says "There's no real way of knowing because the situation in Europe is completely different." Unlike in the U.S., consumers have not moved toward skinny bundles in Europe yet, he said, so Altice may eventually opt to chop the cord-cutter package.
"Altice has very aggressive cost-cutting goals, although the big part of the cost-cutting goals are more on the operating side than on the programming side, Altice will be under amount a fair amount of pressure to cut costs," Birenberg said.
Regardless of the fate of the skinny bundle, analysts are viewing the takeover as a positive for Cablevision, which can benefit from Altice's plans to improve billing, customer communication and overall service, said Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker in a Sept. 17 note.
"We don't know exactly how Altice will do this; but if it works, we ask can U.S. companies replicate these practices to enhance the reputation of U.S. cable in general?," Ryvicker said. Analysts say they expect minimal regulatory resistance on the deal.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.