Why I Can’t Break Up With Cable/Sat TV (yet) but it’s still doomed

kids_health_tvThere are a lot of monthly bills I really don’t like paying, where I know I’m not really getting my money’s worth. My iPhone bill is in that category ($30/mo for data alone!) But today, I’m going to talk about the Cable bill and, in my case, the DirecTV Satellite TV bill – yes, I have both. I pay about $1,800/yr to DirecTV and I pay another $800/yr to Comcast. $2,600 per year.

Needless to say, I grew up in a TV generation. My wife is even worse. The whole reason we have BOTH Cable and Satellite TV is because the cable lets us hook up the “extra” TVs in spare rooms and such around the house without a cable or satellite box. We use DirecTV in the three “main” TV rooms. We have TVs everywhere – it is so 1992 around here.

So that makes me odd (I’m sure you’re surprised) and not exactly a model use case, where the real reason that I continue to just grin and bear it is laziness and habit. But even without these lame excuses, I’ve looked at some of the reasons why it’s harder to quit than I’d like and I think some of these may apply more generally.

Issue 1: The Social Side of TV

One of the positives of TV, especially TV series, is sharing with friends – Laughing together about the latest 30 Rock etc. You lose this if you haven’t seen the program yet because it hasn’t come out on DVD yet. One of the problems with using the Internet or VOD, or worse, Netflix, to watch TV series shows is that you won’t see the show until it’s “old news” – you miss out on that sharing experience while it’s “new” and “hot”.

I think this is a much bigger deal and I have not seen it come up much in the “dump cable” discussions.

Issue 2: HD

idiocracy-tv-dvd11We all have paid for that fancy HD TV – it would be nice to watch HD content on it. Today, there is barely SD content on the Internet or in streaming video.  And HD uses a lot of bandwidth, so one needs a good pipe and good pipe provider to get HD over the Internet. That’s even worse if there are people watching different shows on multiple TVs.

Issue 3: User Interface

Super-Sized TV RemoteInternet TV is still too clunky and difficult to use. It’s getting better, but it’s not there yet. You can’t get enough content in one place with one interface (no matter what the marketers tell you). A mouse and a keyboard are still the only practical answer if you want to really get to the best content, and a mouse and a keyboard are simply not the ideal TV watching tools. Nobody has a good TV-simple one-thumb remote interface yet. This will be a big factor in crossing the chasm to mass adoption.

Some Good News

There are some areas where things have really improved in recent years.  One is sports. There is a lot of sports TV available on-line. These guys know where the money is and I think they are really leading things (well, after porn that is).

Another is Live TV News. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, pretty much all the local channels have live feeds of their main news broadcasts. I suspect this is true in most reasonably sized markets.  And of course, you can also get out-of-area “local” news, which is something you can’t get with Cable TV.

I’m so locked into the old way that I personally may never fully drop Cable/Sat TV – but I can see how close this is to bursting wide open. What happens to Comcast, DirecTV and DISH etc. in this scenario?

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