I haven’t had my own cable TV line since 2008. Well, I did, for about five weeks in 2010. Then I immediately shut it back down, because the bill was insane. I continue to get harassing phone calls from Time Warner Cable, trying to get me to reactivate, at all hours of the day and night. I tell them, perhaps if these special offers were their normal rates, I wouldn’t have left in the first place.
What saddens me most as how ostrich-like the cable companies remain. They say that people are leaving in record numbers, for economic reasons – not because they don’t like the service. Let that soak in. No, really – really let it soak. Because I, the consumer, don’t see enough value for my dollar, I quit using a particular service. But, the cable company thinks I only did it because I don’t have enough dollars in my bank account. How self righteous can an entire industry be!?
The “Return on Investment” for more and more people with cable TV is weakening. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that I can’t afford it, it’s the fact that I don’t want to pay for all of the crap I’m not using. The À la carte cable-company has been a dream of consumers for many years now, and every year it gets a little closer. But those big companies are too afraid to take risks and hurt their current relationships with content-makers and big networks. Too set in their ways, this isn’t going to change until there are new content creators. YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix are all trying to step up to the plate here – but it’s going to take more than that to fight the likes of NBC-Universal, Fox / 20th Century Fox, ABC / Disney, and CBS (umm… Hallmark movies, anyone?).
Still, to fight the fear that there is no way a company could make money, let’s look at how the online distribution model would work. There is no ‘man in the middle’ – or if it is, it’s Apple, Amazon, the “Xbox Video Marketplace” or whatever name they go with down the line… companies that, essentially, take a flat fee. You charge ninety-nine cents, or maybe $2.99, or $5 for an episode. If you do four episodes in a month, and I buy all four for $5, that’s nearly $20 in your pocket, minus the cut off the top the ‘delivery system’ takes. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the average consumer pays a combined $100 a month for a TV/Phone/Internet package. Minimum $35 is for internet, $20 is for phone, leaving $45 to go to my service provider. Of my $45, the provider takes a cut off the top, let’s say $5, then dispenses what is left among the several hundred other channels I pay for each month.
Would you, the content creator, rather have the majority share of that month’s $20, because I’m a loyal fan and I bought all four of your episodes? Or would you rather I watch all four episodes on TV, and you get a little advertising revenue, a little pinch of the 1/400th of $40 the cable company gives you?
Look, I’m not saying I have the solution – I think everything should be available, ADVERTISEMENTS INCLUDED in the first airing (even if you buy it for five dollars), then ads-removed permanently thereafter, as a digital stream / download, on the same day and time as it airs on cable. I don’t know if it should be delivered via standalone apps (each content maker or network gets their own app? ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, AMC, SyFy… they all have apps anyway!), or through a subscription like service like iTunes… there are more details to hash out, but there’s got to be something better than what we’re dealing with these days.
I’ve gotten so tired of my cable company, I’ve given up on them entirely. My internet provider is Clear, because I’m tired of letting the big cable companies monopolize the entire industry. Clear may not be the fastest, or even the most reliable… but I get unlimited data, portability, and my bill is entirely predictable every month. I’m happy to have cut the cord and recycled the copper for cash.