Commentary

Fit To Be Untied: Come Home To Free TV

"In a recent column, Wall Street Journal features editor Kevin Sintumuang wrote what was, in effect, a “Dear John” letter to cable TV."  

It’s a pretty bold statement to make, Kevin -- publicly ending a relationship like that.  But it sounds like it’s been over for a while now; you probably felt like you should get through the holiday special marathons before cutting it off so it wasn’t really awkward for everybody. 

So cable expected too much and gave you too little.  You commit to bills and tiers and packages for programming you’ll never need, maintaining an up and-down vertical relationship of nothing but food, housewives, sharks and ghost hunters.  To be fair, there’s more than just that.  

There is nonstop poker, non-musical music networks, 24/7 channels of opinion posing as news, and enough DIY programs to make you think that gutting and rebuilding your house is something you can do in a weekend.  And if you want more, like movies and many original programs, it’s going to cost you.

It’s no wonder that got old fast.

So you move on to where you can get the same programs you’ll miss on cable -- Hulu, Netflix, and maybe even DVD or Blu-Ray.  But you’re still paying for the same diluted programming that way, or at least delaying your satisfaction.  All you’re gaining is a line-item veto on the programming you’ve already marginalized, but will still have to purchase.  It’s not cutting the cord as much as unplugging it from one place and plugging it in somewhere else.  

These things are just enablers, Kevin.  Give yourself more credit.  You deserve better.

When you’re ready to get into a more lasting relationship, broadcast television will be there for you.    
In the world of broadcast TV, all the Housewives are still Desperate, the food stays in Hell’s Kitchen, and you’ll see so many more live sports -- the major sports, not the JV version -- that you’ll forget that you haven’t seen a ghost hunter or a shark marathon since you cut the cord. 

And yes, there is the local news that you found you can’t be without.  Because let’s face it, Kevin, you know a good thing when you watch it.

Let’s not forget how social broadcast is; we’ll be dancing or singing at least once or twice a week.  There’s the theater of the world-class dramas and a great new generation of comedies.  It’s OK to feel again, Kevin.  Enjoy the healing power of laughter that broadcast has developed for you, and for all of those other modern families who feel the same way you do.

You said it yourself, with almost a hint of foreshadowing in your words: most of what we watch is available free, over the air and in high definition.  As you point out, breaking up with cable doesn’t mean that you give up available cutting-edge television technology.  You mentioned Channel Master as a “cable-like interface,” that gives you a DVR, program guides, and access to streaming and VOD.  But there are other stand-alone DVR products that don’t come from a cable provider.  For example, Tivo works just fine without cable. 

But hey, if you’re looking for a new relationship with your television content, you will probably want a social life, too -- getting out of the house now and then to share some special time away.  With Dyle for smartphone and other portable devices, you can get free, over-the-air TV content delivered directly to your device, all without burdening your data plan. ConnecTV will give you an opportunity to open your viewing up to a social network with your second screen.

And so, Kevin, as you find yourself picking up the pieces of your broken cable television relationship, remember all the great times that you had with broadcast television -- and will have to come.  Because with broadcast television, it won’t take any coax-ing to make you feel good about your television viewing all over again.

Tags: television
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1 comment about "Fit To Be Untied: Come Home To Free TV".
  1. Christopher Blair from SynCom Media Group, Inc. , January 19, 2012 at 11:14 a.m.
    Because of the remaining uncertainty regarding spectrum repacking/reclamation I'm sure there are a number of small broadcasters that would entertain selling rights to spectrum, if for no other reason than the uncertainty prevents any kind of long-term business plan. But the real question is this; isn't it quicker, better, cheaper to allow deregulation to take the place of auctions, for auctions will surely be a long, drawn-out process, with lawsuits galore. Deregulation allows broadcasters to experiment with different modulation schemes, schemes that can be designed to work seamlessly with existing wireless modulation. If the government wants to extract its pound of flesh, allow the following; 1) B'casters pay a 5% ancillary revenue fee (already in place) for anything beyond basic broadcasting, such as spectrum leasing to wireless carriers 2) allow for a one-time fee to be paid to the government when a station's spectrum usage rights are purchased by a wireless carrier, 3) maybe even increase ancillary revenue fee to 7-10% when spectrum is leased to a wireless carrier 4) require any wireless carrier purchasing broadcast spectrum to maintain a free over-the-air (OTA) TV channel. A plan of this sort would enable spectrum availability for wireless carriers while still maintaining a free OTA TV service. If a wireless carrier came to me and said that it wanted to lease my excess spectrum I would jump at the opportunity; the wireless carrier gets its much-needed spectrum and I am able to subsidize my OTA TV station...sounds like a winner to me.