Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Three Things I Hate Most About Cable TV

Three Things I Hate Most About Cable TV

By Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.

The three things I hate most about Cable TV are:

  1. Paying for stuff I don’t want
  2. The user experience
  3. Commercials

1. Paying for Stuff I Don’t Want

Whenever I get one of those “we’ve changed your cable tv lineup” postcards from my provider I groan. I know they’ve rearranged the channel numbers again (which makes no difference to me) but they’ve probably added more channels I won’t watch.

I figure that there are less than a dozen out of many dozens of channels that anyone in my household ever watches. Why do we have to pay for all that other stuff? Why can’t we pick and choose what we want to subscribe to?

Don’t tell me “our license terms are arranged years in advance with suppliers and we can’t change overnight.” I know all about that and the claim that it is in consumers’ best interest to subsidize little-watched stations. You don’t ask me my preferences; why would you ever think your licensing schemes based on legacy business models have anything to do with what I want?

Also, don’t tell me “a la carte” plans are too difficult to manage. Ever heard of “pay per view”? Why not extend that concept to subscription plans you can manage online?

2. The User Experience

When I recently wanted to use the Internet to watch and listen to the Michael Jackson video “The Thriller” I typed “Thriller” into my web browser. It took me directly to a YouTube copy of that music video.

Compare that with our DVR interface or the “On Demand” interfaces we have for various cable sources. Using those two methods for accessing content is absolutely painful and time consuming. My iPod lets me easily navigate considerably more program sources using a single click wheel.

On result of this is that I rarely watch well-hidden on-demand items that I might otherwise watch if I could get at them more easily.

3. The Commercials

Flipping through Basic Cable on our small kitchen flat-screen is a hideous experience that makes TV unwatchable. My impression: the probability of landing on a commercial message is at least 50%.

Why am I paying monthly for this?

What To Do?

I know that Hulu, iTunes Store, BitTorrent, Netflix streaming, etc. etc. are all alternatives. But I haven’t made the jump to HD and related equipment yet that lets me more easily hook my inhome wireless network to my televisions. Plus, when I actually have some time to set aside for a movie I either rent a DVD, or I go out with a friend to the theater.

I may eventually upgrade my systems here at home to take advantage of the new stuff, but right now, it’s just not a priority:

  1. Getting the same programming I can get on Cable TV via the Internet isn’t something that interests me.
  2. Overall I watch less TV now than ever before. I’m just not interested in what’s on TV compared with the alternatives — and the alternatives (online and otherwise) are substantial.

My impression is that I’m spending more time online these days, AND I’m reading more books as well (we have a terrific public library here in Alexandria Virginia).

So I’m not sure how much I even care about cable TV anymore. The selectivity isn’t there, and it’s just too hard to use when compared with the alternatives.

If it weren’t for other members of my household I’d probably cancel it entirely.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald

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