Goodbye, Cable TV
When I was a kid, my Mom dropped us off at the movie theatre one weekend, and during the previews, we saw a short film railing against Pay TV. The advert showed a TV set with teeth, chomping on stacks of dollar bills. I was old enough to realize that more Pay TV probably meant less profit for movie theatres. Much later as an adult, I grumbled but did sign up for cable and watched lots of music videos, sports and movies. And slowly – over decades – movie theatres began to be replaced by home theatres.
But last Friday, I joined five million ‘Zero TV’ households. Technically we’ve been a zero TV apartment for several years. Once I figured out that I could plug a monitor and stereo directly into a cable box, I moved our Samsung TV receiver box to our weekend house where we connect it to a rooftop antenna and pull in six local channels. What I really did was stop sending stacks of dollars to be chomped by my cable provider. And there are enough people opting out of TV that the networks are concerned:
Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.
I already mostly stopped watching broadcast TV, using the On-Demand service to watch shows like Conan and The Good Wife early in the evenings so I can be asleep by 10 PM. Instead of scrolling through corporate media news, gossip shows and reality shows, I had been able to catch up on the handful of shows I liked. I could save the comedic cop show Castle for when my wife was around, and watch the dark cop show/fable Grimm when she was away.
Also, my stepson introduced us to his Netflix account last year. We liked watching Brother Cadfael, Rosemary and Thyme, and various Agatha Christie films at the house. We started over watching Enterprise, which had been hard to find when it was a new series.
In January, I took advantage of Xmas sales to get a Sony BDP-S590 streaming DVD player, which was a newer version of the unit he had. It pulled in Netflix – and a lot of other services – just fine, and I soon found myself watching Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Inspector Lewis or Foyle’s War when I got home. I saved watching the 7 Up Series for when my wife was around. Standard tv fare began to recede in my mind. I made noises about dropping cable, but hadn’t gotten around to it.
A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.
I had antenna-only TV for my first three years in the city. But when we moved nine miles out, the rabbit ears didn’t pick up very well. My wife wanted cable and long distance phone, and I wanted internet so we got Triple Play. Comcast advertised $99/month, but the first bill was around $130/month – and steadily increased. After a year I added a sports package – to get the Tennis Channel – for $9.99/month. Most of last year the bill hovered around $170 per month, but recently approached $180.
A week ago, I got an email that I was getting a $15 credit. Why? I wondered. Last Friday I got a monthly bill for $202. So I checked the user forum. Everyone was complaining. I called. As reported in the forum, their story was that the promotional rate had expired after the first year, and somehow again after the second year. Rather than accept a small discount, I canceled the cable TV portion, keeping internet and phone. I think the bill will be closer to one hundred again, but who knows? If not, there are other providers.