Cable Television Needs to be Sent to the Glue Factory

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I don’t have cable television. And I don’t miss it.

Everything I want to watch can be seen through AirPlay on my Apple TV or with an HDMI cable through my laptop to my television. This doesn’t mean I don’t want more. This simply means I’m not willing to sell my soul each month to Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast, or any other television content fister.

Cable an’ iPhone sitting in a tree, could me making some money right from me…

Here in Austin the vast majority of people I know do not have cable. Less then 10% of our friends and coworkers pay for television channels. In fact, I have a single coworker that I know of that has cable. Most of us depend on live streaming Netflix at a whopping $15.62 a month, PBS through an antenna, and books. Hulu has a certain allure for NBC and Fox television shows, but even their online content contains more and more advertisements – the exact reason many of us dropped cable service in the first place. And I’m going to simply glaze over the recent indiscretions of Netflix, what with upping their rates and QuicksterGate, etc. The $15 a month I’m paying Netflix right now is more than worth their service to me. I’m over their past mistakes.

Once I counted up the friends and contacts I have without cable I discovered a correlation to the iPhone: Every single person I knew without cable had an iPhone. We vary in age from 25 to 40, and vary widely in nationality and race. Some have children, some refuse to even touch kids. I work for a mobile company, one friend a social worker, one friend an anesthesiologist, another three movie and comic book artists, most college educated, some not, some beyond an undergraduate degree. What I’m saying is that the group I looked at has differences, but what it came down to was that we hate ads shouting at us, telling what meds we should be on, and we have to pay for that harassment.

It’s certainly an interesting coincidence. Or maybe our attention spans are so shot do to über short television programs that are then fragmented by ads that our multitasking and high strung brains now need to replace one form of technology for another because it’s simply the only way we now know how to function.

I don’t regret giving up cable at all. Most days I find myself thankful I have no idea what the Didgeridoo with the Stars shows are that I hear about on the radio and from the coworker I know with cable. This does not mean that there aren’t shows that I would certainly like to see, however. It just means I’m tired of paying thousands a year when what I want to watch is probably valued at $5 a month.

I hate cable for that reason. But I do blindly love my iPhone. The iPhone and its entertaining and multitasking capabilities are an indication of our future. I’m paying less then half of what I was paying for cable for my iPhone AND I don’t have to deal with advertisements. I even have Netflix on it, and can send anything to my television through AirPlay on my Apple TV. I watch any show I’ve purchase from iTunes for a dollar or two on the big screen. No ads and I own the few things I’ve purchased forever and ever.

When I am in a household with cable television I generally watch BBCAmerica or PBS. BBCAmerica always winds up being a rather frustrating experience: American cable corporations cut an additional 10 minutes from an hour long BBC program to squeeze in more ads. Simply knowing that I’m getting shorted is immensely irritating. I am “sold at” every second of every day – we all are. By that I mean in some way at almost every moment, something is accosting me with ads, even when it’s through a purchased service such as Pandora or Hulu.  I wanted to watch a program airing from 8pm until 9:30pm one evening a few nights ago while staying with my parents, who have cable. When we hit the “information button” on the remote to get a summary of the show we noticed it’s run time was 53 minutes; there was 37 minutes of advertisements for a 53 minute show, meaning roughly 35% of what we’d be watching – and my parents were paying for – was ads! Fox added 70% airtime of the original length! The constant presence of companies shouting at any and all makes a listener feel intruded upon, violated, and leaves one with a very short fuse. We’re paying exorbitant prices to conglomerates making millions from the advertisements alone that they force upon their loyal customers and it’s simply not worth is any more. Cable stopped being worth its cost years ago.

While Hulu may be the internet’s number one cable programming site, I can’t imagine it will last much longer without changing its business practices. Hulu had two to three ads per show at its inception. In many cases you could opt to watch a  three minute advertisement or trailer and then watch your 22 or 42-minute television program without any break whatsoever. That is no longer the case. Hulu now often has 4 or 5 breaks per 22-minute episode and often those breaks have at least two advertisements. The ironic thing is that Hulu believes people will pay for this spike in advertisements, essentially saying “We here at Hulu are now making more money then ever from ads and on top of it we want to guarantee our multimillion dollar bonuses by making you pay for service you’re technically already paying for.” That service is of course Internet. And I have yet to meet a single person who does pay for Hulu Plus. Even at $8 a month, it is not worth it. The Street summed up HuluPlus in a single short comment perfectly: It costs $9.99 a month and still has commercials? Lame.

I was always ready to chuck something straight at my television every time I was told “This program is brought to you by…” Bitch, please! The programming is brought to me by no one other than yours truly – ME! – for paying my own cable bill.

Issue at hand:

Hulu and the other cable companies could be smart: I would pay $10 a month for advertisement free Hulu that I could play on the internet, my iPhone, Apple TV, or through a game system. I might even pay $15. But there would have to be NO advertisements. I want credit for bringing the program to me, damnit.

If the large cable companies had a single brain between the group of them, they could see a major money making opportunity in front of them – and respond to the major decline in cable subscribers. Make an “App” for mobile devices, cut some losses and rebuild service in the way the public is demanding. They could attempt to appease their clients and at least keep some revenue coming in from consumers.

Unfortunately, for now it seems cable companies are apparently blinded by the massive boner they have for the almighty dollar and would rather keep fees at absurd levels and lose people completely, then work with the consumers wants and needs to keep far more customers around.

I may be a punk, but even I know that hard economic times can often mean the restructuring of how business is done. If cable networks were willing to create a “Pay By Channel” option, I guarantee a flood of ex-customers would come flocking back to their services. And if Hulu dropped the crap ads on top of having to pay a monthly fee, their subscribers would double in number. I would sign up today. But that might mean that some King of Shit Mountain CEO would only get a $29 million bonus this year instead of $30 million. And we just can’t have that.

*A little FYI about Netflix and Quickster: In the 1980’s, when video stores became big business, the government stepped in and said they could not sell the personal information of their clients to outside sales companies. This law remained in affect when Netflix was born; even though it was a ‘dot com’, it was still a movie rental business and therefore couldn’t earn the added income of selling its clients’ information. By splitting into two separate companies, a streaming television group and a movie rental group, Netflix could legally sell all our information, at least on the streaming side of things, which was unprotected. So, kind of a dick move on their part, but, as nauseating as it all is, our personal info is bought and sold every day. Ever been asked for your number in order to purchase something at Bath and Body Works or Radio Shack? Yeah…Just say “No” from now on.

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