Am I Eating My Own?
This week, after heavily evaluating our cable options, the hubster and I decided to nix our Time Warner Cable package with DVR service.
The big defining factor: Getting rid of cable, and upgrading the speed of our broadband service saves me approximately $60 monthly, or $720 annually. That can go for groceries, or tuition, or those daily (expensive) no-baby candies.
So first, to evaluate whether this was a good step, we looked into the prices of different media streaming players that hook up to Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon: Boxee, Roku, Google TV, and Apple TV. Of the big four, we chose the Roku player because it has a USB input, so we can hook our laptops or a storage drive up to it. Boxee didn’t have all the features we wanted and would have been too pricey, Apple TV would have required us to buy everything, and Google TV was too expensive.
The next step was to check out which shows we have set up as series recordings on our DVR, and how we would be able to get them in a post-cable world. Some of our shows are guilty pleasures, but for the sake of full disclosure, I’m willing to share them with you, my friend. Because we’re big old nerds, here is our spreadsheet; as you can see, we’ll still be purchasing a show from iTunes, but only one, and it’s worth it.
And then it came time to get rid of the cable. When we realized it was doable, we were insane and immediately — like 3 minutes later — ran out of the house to buy a digital antennae. We set it up that night, and decided to call Time Warner and tell them to suck it!!! The antennae was OK, but got fuzzy if one of us moved slightly (Hey! Just like back in the 80’s!).
But then we called Time Warner, told them to suck it, and then they told us to suck it back — literally. They said if we did a serious downgrade on our cable (no DVR, no premium channels, no basic cable, just the broadcast channels), along with paying for super excellent internet, we would be basically getting TV for free, still saving me $60 a month.
Is this bad?
While all of this was happening over the past 48 hours, I thought about the ways that cable shows (like the beautiful Justified, which just won a Peabody), are funded. These cable networks are funded by advertisers and fees from your cable bill. So, the more people who pull out of cable to get Boxee or, god forbid, just torrent every show ever, the cable networks lose out big time.
And now here I am, studying television, and thinking about creating content for the web and these cable networks, but I’m getting rid of traditional cable? To be fair, The Mister pointed out that we are legally getting all of our most important shows, and paying for them — that “torrent” column on the spreadsheet? We don’t even really need it, with the Hulu/Netflix/Amazon/broadcast television. And furthermore, Hulu alone is reporting that they will pull in $500 million in revenue in 2011; $300 million of that is heading to content providers like NBC and FOX. Oh, remember when people were saying that no one was going to pay $8 a month for television on their computer? Lies, I tell you: Hulu is about to exceed a million paid subscribers this year.
If the cablers were smart 5 years ago, when I was in college hearing rumblings about providing pay-per-pound-buffet-style content, they would have listened instead of completely balking at the idea. Comcast, Time Warner, and even those satellite people could have developed their own (preemptive) version of Hulu that came with their regular cable service, and a sliiiightly cheaper web-only plan (I guess they ate their own in this case…)
So, part of the lesson here: as people are rejecting the old notions of what television is, and as we learn to consume television differently, those of us who want to create programming should remember that the goal should be to make content that people will actually want to pay for. Sure we could torrent all of those shows, but if we do, we’re only screwing ourselves.