Why I don’t have cable TV

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Carl Foster.

(Below, Apple computer ad, Time Magazine, November 1985.)

Xlg_apple_IIC_0 Xlg_apple_IIC_1Some monthly bills are a fact of life: Electricity, gas, water. Many people include cable TV in that list. I don’t. Instead I have internet TV – here’s why.

1 – Cable TV is expensive
There are a lot of differences between living in the UK and America, as this expat can testify. One big difference is the cost of TV. I was staggered when I arrived in America and looked at cable TV options. $60 for a basic package!? Per month!? In the UK most people have a TV aerial in their loft (attic) with which they receive free-to-air channels. True, for much of my life there were only four channels to choose from, but since the introduction of digital broadcasts and “Freeview” set-top boxes, most people receive approximately 30 channels, including cable staples such as history, food and news channels. You can buy a “Freeview” box for about £50 ($70). Here the cable companies charge $8.99 a month to rent a set-top box, and that is before the $60 for the content. $800 per year when I am used to a one off $70? No thank you. Instead I bought a smart Blu-ray player for $150 and I pay a combined $20 per month for Hulu+ and Netflix.

2 – I don’t do appointment viewing
Life’s busy, traffic happens and babies poop at inconvenient times. This, and a whole load of other reasons, is why DVRs were invented. The next logical step from DVRs though is total on demand viewing. This is what internet TV is. There is no such thing  as “putting the box on.” Having Netflix, Hulu or Amazon means you have to make an active choice in what you watch, not passively watch whatever happens to be on. I find I am now more selective and I watch less TV as a result.

3 – I want to watch a world of content
Growing up in southern Britain, I always wished the French would crank up the wattage on their TV transmitters. Not only is French TV saucier, but if I could have watched French channels, I would have earned better grades in French class. With internet TV, I can get French programming, German, Indian and much more. True, Bollywood movies aren’t really my cup of tea, but watching international events through the lens of an Indian news channel is fascinating. Moreover, I can watch British TV channels and my daughter can stay connected with the characters from her favorite BBC shows.

There are downsides to internet TV. There are delays before some shows become available, watching lives sports is practically impossible and there are quality and occasional buffering issues. But, for me, those are minor compared to the advantages.

The internet has shaken up many industries (music) and almost destroyed others (newspapers). However, it seems the TV industry of the 2000s has learnt a lesson from the music industry of the 1990s. Instead of using a big stick to confront the revolutionary change the internet has brought about (catching the pennies by shutting down Napster and missing the pounds by letting Apple own digital music),  the major networks got ahead of the game by setting up Hulu.com, the go-to destination for internet TV. The Hulu experience is still spotty, but with the backing of the networks it is sure to improve. I just hope the price doesn’t go up with the quality.

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