Satan. Hitler. [Your cable provider.]
The three great evils, although not necessarily in that order. Surely most people, including the devoutly religious and quinoa-munching pacifists, have fantasized about unspeakable acts of violence at the expiration of the four-hour window. Without mentioning any names, some of us are even the erstwhile creators of Comcast Must Die.
It was dedicated to shaming Comcast into providing some basically humane levels of customer service. We even had a jingle. It sort of worked. Many individual complaints were resolved, the company was forced into investing in its CRM infrastructure, and as a result, according to the latest survey of 277 companies by the consulting firm Temkin, Comcast has soared to 277th place.
But Verizon, Time-Warner, Cox, AT&T, Dish…they aren’t much better. And they are all so maddeningly expensive and infuriatingly bundled that we all feel ripped off even in those rare instances when the signal is working fine. Compare that experience to:
God, orgasm, Amazon Prime, Netflix.
Selection, personalization, simplicity, value. For $10 or $15 a month -- versus $100 or $150 for cable -- you can stream to your heart’s content. I would never presume to rank the Pantheon of the Sublime, but ask God for Season 3 of Arrested Development and see what happens.
As such, it’s hard to read about the cord-cutting phenomenon without a bit of schadenfreude -- and by “a bit of schadenfreude,” I mean naked, high-five-slapping glee. Gouge this, you rapacious crap-slingers. The latest Nielsen numbers show a 3.2% decline in cable subscriptions industrywide. Moreover, that doesn't even account for the “cord-shavers,” who reduce their services in opting for so-called “skinny bundles” at lower prices. If you’re wondering why Comcast is on an acquisition spree -- DreamWorks Animation, Rotten Tomatoes.com, a chunk of BuzzFeed and (rumored to be underway) Greece -- it isn’t because cable distribution has a bright future. Even cable for broadband is shrinking.
So rejoice! Ding-dong, the witch is dying. Which old witch? The cable witch. Ding dong, the wicked witch is dying!
Except, don’t set your expectations too high. It might be wise to put paradise and orgasm out of your mind and think instead about Libya and Iraq. Ding dong, Qaddafi’s dead, Saddam is dead, they’re both dead. Ding dong, the shit show isn’t dead.
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Pandora, Spotify, Sling T, HBO Now, Starz, CBS All Access, TCM, Tidal. At last tally, there were a trillion competing streaming music and video services, with many more to come, offering exactly the a la carte selection we always thought we wanted. And once everybody connects the hardware that gives us a cable-guide-like interface for sorting among our streaming options, we will have the content world we demanded.
Whereupon cable might look, relatively speaking, like a bundle of joy. Because, as we all should have remembered, it’s a lot pricier to order a la carte than to eat at the buffet. And since, also per our demands, these pay services will come ad-free, there will be no second revenue stream to subsidize the transaction. Oh, and as competition leads to price competition, acquisition budgets will suffer and so will content and…well, maybe Com-ddafi wasn’t so bad after all.
Or, put another way: be careful of what you subscribe to -- you might get it.