I canceled my TV satellite service last week and am not changing to what most would consider a direct competitor. Since it isn’t strictly an issue of affordability, questions may arise as to why I would dump this sort of television after nearly 12 years of paying for similar services. Particularly when, unlike many of my close friends, I really like sports.
The short answer is that I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Oh, there’s a long answer starting after this paragraph, but just wanted to get that out of the way for the TL;DR crowd. I’m paying for far more than I can really use under the guise of having choice. I’ve always wanted a la carte programming and with the age of legitimate streaming internet content, I can pretty much have that.
So yes, I’ve become one of the many who have dropped TV subscription services in favor of internet delivered content. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not trying to convert anyone as much as looking to explain my thought process. There are a lot of legitimate options out there via the ‘Net. What it came down to wasn’t a lack of willingness on my part to spend money to support the entertainment I like, it’s a lack of willingness to spend money to support the entertainment I don’t like. If that doesn’t make sense to you, then let me indulge in an overview of how the pay TV business appears to work from this consumer’s perspective (emphasis on perspective).
I think consumers generally know most cable channels are just one of many owned by a parent company, like Viacom has the MTV networks, Comedy Central and so forth. Warner has a family as does Fox, Disney, Comcast and others. They understand the cable or satellite TV provider must pay for access to these channels. Like with most things, for Comcast to get what they want from Disney, they must also get something they may not want, but it’s part of the package. It makes sense for the networks to be able to get channels in front of more eyes. So if you’re a single (no kids) sports lover to get ESPN and ESPN 2, you’re also paying at some level for channels you are not likely to watch, like say ABC Family. That’s just an example (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that consumer channel packages seem to operate similarly to the bigger picture).
Now even as recently as 5 years ago (give or take a little) this model made a certain amount of sense because some of the niche programming out there would not necessarily be able to survive apart from the package of sister channels. But in pursuit of more eyes for advertising what were once educational or special focus networks have expanded well beyond their original scope and often not in a good way. This is not behavior I wish to encourage. I want my learning channel to teach something. I want my science fiction network to actually have science fiction. I want by British channel to have British shows and movies. I could go on.
To continue to pay to have these channels even if unwatched just encourages the entire system to continue as is. Putting up with it just to watch the handful of core shows still true to the network’s original mission statement still on from before the format change really makes me a hypocrite. Not when other legitimate avenues to view them exist.
If you look back up at the selection of channel owners I named is that they often happen to be not just content providers, they also often double as content delivery. There are rules in place that make it so they have to share that content, but every so often competing delivery services get in a pissing contest over pricing. Whenever it is settled, my costs invariably go up. They fight and the audience loses. Time-Warner and Comcast has no real business reason to provide competing services like Dish Network or DirecTV with good prices on their stations when they are direct competitors in several markets. I believe it’s an inherent conflict of interest and again, paying into it just encourages the behavior. And I haven’t even entered into the idea of sticking their sports channel on a higher tier than your sports channel.
Regardless, it really is a shame that with all the money in entertainment that they can’t reach a mutually beneficial agreement. From a content provider standpoint, more eyes means more advertising. From a content delivery, exclusivity drives customers to you if you have what they want, thus the conflict.
So it really does come down to money. As in really thinking about what do I pay these people to do for me and if I feel I’m getting value for it. The answer for me was no. My money isn’t going to participate this way. I feel better off buying the specific content I want. I hope it means a bit more than some Neilsen ratings number.
It has been tough mental adjustment to paying for content that my brain says should be “free.” The reality is that it has been nearly $1000 a year going out the door just for entertainment and I can’t help but feel that money has been poorly spent. So logically it’s a matter of rethinking what I was paying as “included” rather than “free.”
The tougher adjustment has actually been having free time, sitting down to watch TV and then realizing the question is “what do I want to see?” as opposed to “what’s on?” There’s an opportunity for a joke about adjusting to life outside prison or at least why the caged bird sings. This is what most people would consider a good problem to have and I want to maintain that thought.