After I wrote a column about cutting the cord, I got a fair amount of feedback that pretty much cemented my decision that we will be doing so fairly soon.
One person brought up a simple question that pushed me over the edge: How many TV shows do you actually watch?
It’s a simple question. You pay for the privilege of accessing thousands of television shows, but how many are on your viewing radar?
I watch about 10 shows over the course of the year -- four to five in the fall, a couple more in the spring and a scattering of others through the course of a year.
Most of that gets watched on an airplane when I travel for work. I rarely have time to sit down and watch shows at home, and when I do, I am exhausted and it’s 50/50 on whether I make it through the entire episode before I fall asleep.
Television at home, for me, is the Moby Dick of my entertainment experience, lower priority to sitting down and listening to music, engaging with my family or getting stuff done.
As a father, husband, employee and general go-getter, watching TV is a privilege I rarely take advantage of. So why was cutting the cord such a difficult decision to make?
People have habits. Over time your habits can change, but they are difficult to decide to change.
When I was a kid, channel surfing was a way to watch TV. This past weekend I found myself with a window of empty time, so I checked to see what was on. I surfed and found nothing of value. This gave me an epiphany that I am paying to access hundreds of stations full of nothing.
You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. In a random sampling of 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon, I found 14 stations of infomercials, 16 stations featuring movies that stopped every eight minutes for commercials, a bunch of cooking shows and travel shows that featured the same restaurants and the same destinations, a scattering of second-tier sports like fishing, lacrosse, and reruns of NBA and NFL games from the last 10 years. Seriously -- who rewatches an NBA game from the first round of playoffs five years ago?
I watch 10 shows over 365 days. That translates to about 130 episodes over 365 days. My “watercooler” shows are mostly on HBO, Netflix and Amazon and not really on standard cable or network television anymore. And any of those stations are also available on iTunes and able to be watched online.
Plus -- and I really do hate to say this -- the experience of watching shows online is far better because I have fewer commercial interruptions. I love advertising, but it’s a better entertainment experience when there are fewer ads.
Therein lies the biggest single issue with cable TV. It is a behemoth that requires more money to operate and turn a profit, so it squeezes the consumer experience with more and more ads, becoming something that is not enjoyable.
Streaming services are more realistic. They manage to reduce the amount of paid programming and commercial interruptions, so it’s a better experience.
If cable TV were more focused on the full experience including commercial interruptions, it might have a chance to succeed. Why not offer a reduced channel load with a no-ads option at the current pricing? Let me choose the stations I want and the programs I watch, have an experience with fewer ads and pay what I pay now.
That might be a convenience worth paying for, versus having access to informercials and commercials with an intermittent show once in a while.
Until then, get ready to cut the cord.