So, back in the bygone days of 2009 we snipped our cable cord as a budget cutting measure. We had a two-year-old, Jenn was staying home with our son, and the economy was still struggling after going down the drain during the late 2007 to early 2009 crash. That last bit kind of cut into my overtime pretty hard as well as ensuring that raises were going to be few and far in between for a while. With our Dish bill going through the roof, it was an easy call to make.
Now, it’s not as if we went extra home entertainment cold turkey. We had just been given a free trial to Netflix as a Christmas gift, Hulu wasn’t to the Hulu Prime phase yet, and I had other entertainment options. My DVD (and then) VHS collection had been built up over years of raiding out of business sales, clearance blowouts, and rental store sales and was substantially large. I owned an XM Radio with a lifetime subscription, meaning I had the audio streams of the cable news channels as well as a large number of entertainment-based channels to listen to. Then there was the sizable audio drama and comedy collection my wife and I had both amassed over the years. We looked at all of that and told us that it was no big deal to cut the cord.
It turned out that it wasn’t that big of a deal either. Sure, there were things we missed like being able to be up to date on the latest big buzz television show of the moment, but on the whole it wasn’t something we missed after the first couple of weeks of adjustment to ditching cable.
For over six years we did without cable. We kept Netflix, and the later addition of a Roku gave us reliable access to the video service Amazon Prime offered as well as a number of free channels. Yeah, I was still at least a season behind on some of my geek TV stuff, but I think I enjoyed being able to binge seasons of shows that finally popped up on Netflix or Amazon more than I did watching a new show over the course of a year.
Fast forward to a few months ago. Comcast had jacked our phone and internet bill up to ridiculous levels, but we finally had another option after having them be the only game in our immediate area for years. So we went with the other option, and we actually got a better deal going with phone, internet, and cable than just phone and internet. It seemed weird, but we figured what the hell and went with it. So a few months back we got ourselves cable again for the first time in six-plus years.
Wow… Cable has gotten amazingly bad in the last six years.
I really hadn’t been bothering to keep up, but I had assumed that the smarter business move would have been improving the product a bit. Instead, cable itself has gotten less customer friendly over the last six years. Plus, damn, most of the actual programming has gotten dumber. When we watch TV, the vast majority of it is Netflix, Amazon, WWE Network, and DVDs/Blu-Rays. We individually mapped out how much is on cable each week that we’d want to watch. Neither of us broke 15 total hours on a typical week., and we only hit just under 20 when we factored in the possibility of weeks when shows with limited episode numbers per season all hit the air at the same time.
Part of that is some of the programming that’s on these days. A bigger part of that is the way the cable tiers are laid out now. Rather than responding to the threat of streaming services by refining the product a bit, it seems like their response was to spread out good channels by placing one or two in tiers with eight or nine crap channels.
We have to have cable for a year due to the signing agreement on the deal we took. We’re actually kind of looking forward to dropping it again. Half the time we forget we have it because there’s really nothing on most of the time that makes it worth turning on. We end up watching a streaming service instead. I tend to think that we’re not alone here since 2015 has seen noticeable increases in both the number of people dropping cable and the rate at which it is happening. Come to think of it, that may explain the deal they were offering.
Either way, cable as we know it is apparently dying, and deservedly so. It may take a while, but it’s becoming something that more and more people see no use for. More than likely the reason is because it pretty much sucks. It’s a situation that really needs to fix itself though.
Most of content that people are watching on streaming services comes from cable. Most of the shows people are binging on streaming services first ran on television; many of them from cable television. Take that away as a financially viable medium and you reduce the number of shows that can get on the streaming services to binge watch.
Cable sucks, but I’m not sure I want to see it die. The thing is I actually kind of like what cable once was. Hopefully the ultimate reaction to the competition of the streaming services is a streamlining rather than a collapse. Two, three, or ten version of the same channel plus additional similar channels owned by the same parent company that are only airing enough decent original material for one channel spaced out with crap filler material is stupid.
I know why it got to that point. It made them money before now. If you as a provider wanted to have certain well liked channels, you had to take a package of channels that contained the crap. That made the entertainment companies money. Then the cable providers did the same thing to the customers. That made the cable providers money.
It wasn’t a great system, but it worked better when the ratio of decent stuff to crap was slightly better with regards to being in favor of the good stuff. People were willing to pay for a few bad channels they would rarely (or never) watch to get the comparatively larger number of good channels and programming they got. Now the ratio has flipped so badly in the other direction that people are leaving cable in droves.
Hopefully the cable providers can get their act together before they crash and burn entirely. Barring that, hopefully they crash and burn slowly enough that we can see the proper build up of viable options to take the place of what cable was. As much as people talk about how much better, and more affordable, things are with the various streaming services, the services still need the content created on cable. It can’t all go to streaming services because you’ll just duplicate the costs issues of cable along with the problem of paying for a service that you only watch for a few things here and there.
Hopefully, best case scenario, cable can get to a point where it doesn’t suck again. That would be the preferable option to dying off entirely.