I’ve Got No Strings To Hold Me Down

How many of you have cable TV? I’ll bet most if not all of you do. Let’s talk about that. Thanks to whoever made this. I sure didn't!

There are no perfect estimates on what the average cable bill is currently, but it’s generally considered to be over $100 per household right now. Some estimates say it will average $200 by 2020. That’s almost $7 per day. Even if we’re only talking about what you’re paying right now – something like $110 per month – it’s expensive. Add to that most households have an added service such as Netflix or Hulu Plus (both $7.99 for the service, more for Netflix if you also have DVD’s delivered to your home), and you’re talking an easy $120 per month, or about $4 per day. Is that really worth it? And I’m not talking internet and phone as part of a bundle, just the cable itself.

And what if cable companies are forced to sell individual channels – the so called ‘ala carte’ option that some legislators are trying to get passed. Would that make a difference? Would you remove the channels you don’t watch, or would you not bother? After all, there’s every reason to believe the cable companies would still give you a package that encourages you to keep all the channels. Would you?

And by the way, if anyone has a contact on the inside of Comcast, could you please tell them to stop sending me offers? I get – no kidding – an average of three offers from them a week, and some of them are brightly colored and quite expensive. I get sick just thinking about all the landfill waste they’re generating. Well, anyway…I think this was made by Joel Tarling. If so, thanks!

My household doesn’t have cable, and we haven’t for years now. I have no intention of getting cable either, even if they go ala carte. Every once in a while, perhaps three times a year, we splurge and get Netflix for a month, but that’s about it. My entertainment budget for TV is about $24 per year. Done.

Now part of this has to do with the fact that we don’t have the money to spend on TV. I’ll freely admit that we count our pennies over here because there’s a good chance we have fewer of them than you do. But even if we weren’t part of the Proud Poor of America, we still wouldn’t have cable, and there are several reasons for this. Several reasons that make me wonder what the TV-purchasing masses are seeing that we aren’t.

1) Time: When in the world would we watch it? We might have four to six hours a week that we could choose to spend on TV. If I’m paying $120 for cable and, say, Netflix, that’s about $4 per day. If I count a whole week, that’s about $28. If I only have 5 hours a week to watch said TV, then I’m paying about $5.50 PER HOUR to watch TV. Television shows just don’t interest us enough to consider that a good deal, which brings me to my next point…

2) Quality: Perhaps my wife and I are snobs – I’ve been called worse, to be sure – but I honestly feel that 90% of the television produced sucks. I’d rather clip my toenails than watch some of the dreck on TV these days. I won’t name any names because I don’t want to alienate anyone. I can be too opinionated for my own good. But still, the point stands. Huge chunks of what’s produced for TV is either pathetic in production or writing, poorly acted or directed, a terrible premise to start with, offensively violent or unnecessarily sexual, especially during prime time. So using my math above, now I’m paying $5.50 to watch only perhaps 10% of the shows I’m paying for.

3) Sports: I understand lots of people like sports. We have almost zero interest in sports – we might perk up during the Olympics, perhaps – but otherwise, that entire block of channels (there’s about 347,000 of them right now…) is something we would just have to skip over. Why would I want to pay for them at all? Not our thing.

4) Too much/too little: Many shows are either too episodic (each episode stands alone, and what happened last week doesn’t effect what will happen this week), or too serial (each episode stands on all the episodes that came before it, and makes no sense alone). Now, before you jump to conclusions, I don’t think this is bad at all; it’s just bad for TV, especially the serial shows. For example, my wife and I started watching Grimm, the show about a modern-day cop who discovers there’s this whole world of fairly-tale horrors – and he’s their judge, jury and executioner. Good show. I had a few issues with some of the writing, but we watched it faithfully for the first season. But we were watching it on regular old Hulu, not Hulu Plus, so when we missed one episode because it expired, we couldn’t go back to watch it later. And because of that, we didn’t know what was happening in the show at all. We missed one episode, and the next one made no sense to us. I would rather have rented or borrowed the entire show from some other source than to have it interrupted like that. That’s why Netflix makes sense for us. We get one month, block out some time, and catch up on some shows we enjoy (Doctor Who, I’m looking at YOU!). That just works better for us.

I guess some folks have DVR’s, but we don’t. I guess we’d be able to get one if we got cable, but we’re not going to, so we’re back to the beginning, and it just isn’t a good option.

It seems to me that cable TV, like land-line telephones, are one of those things that people just assume they must have, and don’t even think if it’s a good idea for them. Hopefully I’ve made you think at least, and if I have, then I’m a happy little writer.

Until next time.


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