Five years after discontinuing our satellite cable television subscription, we could not be happier.
Cable is the opiate of the masses. Not only because of the sludge it delivers in the form of programming, but because it foists a precooked entertainment “bundle” on you. Your choice between a relatively low-cost prepackaged “deal” with a few channels, or a more expensive prepackaged “deal” with a lot more channels is really no choice at all. For every channel you actually consume, there are a dozen others that you subsidize even though you never watch them.
For years, we purchased a low to mid level cable package, which – with internet (at the cost of $50 per month) – cost us about $150 per month ($1800 per year. Argh!!). We did not have HBO or any of those fancy cable channels, but still paid through the nose.
Why, I asked Mr. Grasshopper, could we not get a la carte pay television in America (the option is available in several international markets)? He didn’t know. But, I assume the answer is the monopoly enjoyed by a few cable providers, and the industry’s general inertia against change while they still command a majority of the Nation’s viewers. However, that may be changing as more early adopters (mostly Millennials comfortable with the online World) relinquish cable entirely to forge their own entertainment options through the internet.
Fortune Magazine recently did an article on the topic suggesting just as much. (http://fortune.com/2016/03/15/a-la-carte-tv/) Interestingly, this article made me feel less like a Maverick for our decision to “cut the cord,” and more like the member of a burgeoning movement:
A survey from video-discovery firm DigitalSmiths last summer found that approximately 8% of Americans have already nixed their pay-TV subscriptions in favor of streaming services like HBO Go, a jump from approximately 7% in 2014. That report was followed in September by a study from research firm Magid Associates that found the number of people at least considering cutting the cord was on the rise.
While Mr. Grasshopper had been contemplating the big move for a while, the thing that made the decision for us was the launch of Apple TV (and our receipt of the device as a wedding present). This little gizmo allows us to stream Netflix, YouTube and (around Game of Thrones time) HBO Go to our television without any cable. Being a member of Amazon Prime also means that we can watch Amazon Videos on our television by playing them through Apple Play. I should mention that we only activate HBO Go for the few months that Game of Thrones is being broadcast, and cancel the subscription when the season ends.
Happily, I have also noticed that Apple TV’s apps are improving with at least three free live news options from Sky News, ABC and CBS. Roku, and Amazon Fire are alternatives to Apple TV that I do not have any experience with, but which might also provide viable options. Here are a couple of articles from Life Hacker discussing their various attributes (http://lifehacker.com/set-top-box-showdown-apple-tv-vs-nexus-player-vs-rok-1754810806 and http://lifehacker.com/4k-set-top-box-showdown-roku-4-vs-shield-tv-vs-fire-1787055398)
For those who much absolutely have the latest episode of the latest show, there is always the option of purchasing just that an episode or a season of that particular show on iTunes. Another, more economically savvy option, would be to buy Hulu at $7.99 per month (when I checked Hulu’s website for this article I noticed a limited time offer to receive Hulu for one year at $5.99 per month. (http://www.hulu.com/welcome?orig_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F))
Ultimately, it is liberating to know that we do not have to be shackled to the false “options” of traditional satellite cable providers. Instead, with a little inventiveness and some high-speed cable, we are the masters of our own entertainment empire.