404 tel·e·vi·sion


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A few years ago I went an entire year without paying for TV. This was during the early days of Hulu. During this time period the only way I could get all the shows my wife and I wanted to watch was to hook my PC up to the TV. Things have changed quite a bit and today we can get very close to getting every type of content from the Internet including live sports.

Over the past few weeks I tried to get as much content as I could only from the Internet. With more live sporting events offering streaming options, like the Super Bowl and the Olympics, it seems that broadcasters are acknowledging that not only are there a lot of chord-cutters but that increasing numbers of people around the world have a device like a tablet or smartphone and want to stream this content online. Live content like news, and sports, was the hardest content to get during my year long experiment but is very close to reality now. However, during this more recent experiment I realized something about streaming I hadn’t before. It is not worth it to me to have to sit through a mess of entirely irrelevant commercials just to watch it for free.

Of course, it isn’t actually free. I pay a lot for broadband. The only “free” TV is to get a terrestrial antennae. One would imagine that in any future where chord cutting is viable that ISP’s could hike their rates. Many US providers do this today charging significantly more for broadband if you don’t bundle other services like TV as a part of your service.

Given that I will already be paying quite a bit to stream for “free”, I wonder if having to sit through an absurd amount of irrelevant commercials will be worth whatever amount I am saving. Not knowing what these pricing plans will be I’m assuming there will be a price where it is worth it and one where it is not. Once you can skip commercials it really is hard to go back to having to watch them again.

Some broadcasters (not all, yet) are already maximizing these streaming eyeballs the same way they do with pay TV broadcasters. If you haven’t noticed before, pay attention to how many times you have to hit the 30 second skip button to skip commercials with your DVR. At first it is 4 times or so but as the show goes on it could 7-8 or more times you have to hit the 30 sec skip button. During one hour long prime time show I noticed a commercial break lasting longer than 5 minutes. Suffice it to say, broadcasters pack as many commercials into these shows. Skipping commercials is an essential time saver for me. If they pack commercials into streaming shows the way they do broadcast shows, it could be a painful experience. For some, the savings is important, but for others I wonder where the cutoff of saving money to commercial skipping convenience will kick in.

Ultimately, the huge positive is that all we are seeing happening, with alternate ways to watch TV will force mercantilist service providers to actually compete for our loyalty. While I have nearly zero hope for wireless carriers, I’m hoping those who own my cable box will get their heads on straight.

  • macyourday

    Content providers hate their viewers. This is a stick up. Give me your money or give me your time (and sanity).