Monday, July 22, 2013

How long does cable TV have to evolve?

How long does Cable TV have to evolve? 

According to The Wall Street Journal, the average cable bill for a US home in 2001 was $48. Fast forward to 2013 and it’s almost tripled to over $140 per home. Cable and Satellite TV  providers such as Comcast, AT&T, Dish Network and Direct TV are making money hand over fist, but are we getting any more value for our nearly tripled cable bill? 

About 3 years ago, the DVR box I was “renting” from Comcast had some hardware issues. I called Comcast and was told that I (Yeah, me the customer who is paying for the service) would need to take my DVR box to the “nearest” Comcast store to get it fixed or replaced. The store was about 15 miles away from my apartment. This lack of service didn’t sit well with me and it got me thinking, that maybe I would just ditch cable all together. After all, I was paying almost $160 a month for the few (7-10) channels that I watched on a regular basis. If were being honest, I was basically paying that much to watch The Walking Dead, ESPN, Breaking Bad and a few other random sporting events. 

I weighed out the pros and cons of “cutting the (cable) cord” and upon completing my list I had very few reasons to stick with Comcast or cable in general. I knew if I ditched cable all together that my wallet would be happier, I wouldn’t have to deal with those awful customer service reps, faulty hardware, and ridiculous 10-2 service call time slots. 

I started looking into other options to get my TV “fix”. In late 2011 I had a few choices; Netflix and Hulu Plus were available on my Xbox 360 and at only about $8 a month for each, the choice to add those subscription services seemed pretty obvious. Netflix was great for movies and Hulu Plus was awesome for the network TV shows I watched. In 2013 we have many more streaming services in addition to Netflix and Hulu so consumers are really winning the battle in that respect.  

Earlier this year, I bought an Apple TV. The $99 I spent on that little box is probably the best way I have spent $99 on anything, ever. The Apple TV is an interesting little device/investment. Some people will argue that it isn’t practical and doesn’t have a lot to offer, but I couldn’t disagree more. 

Let’s say you watch 3-5 (cable network) shows on a weekly basis. One show is on TNT, two air on A&E and a couple more air on HBO. You can purchase a “Season pass”, of a TV show for around $35-$40 on iTunes and watch every episode just a few hours after it airs. $35 or $40 up front may sound like a lot, but if you stop and think about it, that $35 multiplied by 3-5 TV shows comes out A LOT cheaper than your 12 months of $150 cable bills. iTunes also allows you to purchase single TV episodes for only $2.99 in HD, and you own them forever. 

I am fully aware that cable providers now have “On Demand” sections for certain networks where you can watch some past seasons or episodes of shows, but they still lack in the amount of content you can watch. The Apple TV was recently updated with HBO Go and I thought that was very interesting. It makes me wonder if the future of TV will be these networks offering subscription based viewing. We would have more control over what we watched and the financial savings would be great. 

I have found that one of the biggest reasons people are so attached to cable is sports. As Americans we love our sports and the professional and collegiate leagues know this. They also know that we will pay for them if they air games we want to see on cable channels, as opposed to regular TV. Sometimes this requires us to add even more to our monthly cable bill. 

The Apple TV and Roku have access to MLB TV so someone can pay one price for the year and watch every MLB game. Apple has this option for the NBA as well. If the NFL jumped on this train, I think we would see even more people leaving their cable company.

In 2013 I am still living the cable free life and both my wallet and I are very happy. So, back to my original question, how much time do all of these cable providers have to evolve before they are left in the dust? As a society we are moving towards a completely digital life as iTunes changed the way we purchase music forever and I believe devices like the Apple TV and Roku will set the standard for the future of television. It’s so nice to actually get what you pay for and be able to watch what you want, when you want, all while saving some money. What would you like to see added to these streaming devices? 

I predict, that  in the next 10 years we will either see cable providers drastically altering their TV packages and pricing, or we will see the end of the “Cable TV era” What do you think? Are you happy with your cable provider, or are you ready to move on?

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