Whatever I watch on my iPad has better resolution and color than the television I grew up with. Note the number of choices one has by just searching on “television” in the app store.
With Big Data making big news for Netflix, I’m hoping that more Americans ditch cable for streaming television. I’ve received several questions from readers of this column asking why I think streaming services are so much better, and why I advocate throwing over cable completely for Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and the rest of our new media overlords. There are lots of reasons we should throw away the current model of cable and satellite subscription services.
Here I’ll list my top five; if you really need more reasons than these, you’re either a Comcast employee or use your television as a tool for self inflicted pain.
You’re paying for hundreds of channels you never watch. For reasons that have solely to do with cable companies wanting to put their hands in your pockets, you’re not allowed to buy television a la carte in order to just pay for the content you would like to see. Instead, a subscriber is forced to buy packages of content just to get the few channels they want. I’ve written before about how an unholy alliance of cable television interests and televangelists defeated a bill that would make the current bundling of channels illegal. Cable cut their own throats here by forcing all of us to subsidize ESPN regardless of our feelings about sports. ESPN watchers get Nickelodeon in their homes even when they couldn’t care less about Dora the Explorer. Streaming television gives consumers the choice to pick and choose what they actually pay to have on their TV, speaking of which . . .
My daughters play My Little Pony in a very different way than I did in 1985.
Commercials are out of control. People have been complaining about broadcast commercials since they were invented, but we live in an age now where the things have become so intrusive as to need an act of Congress just to get the damn volume down. This might be me just getting older and grouchier, but it seems like the commercials are becoming more sexist (GoDaddy is on my permanent shit list for their campaigns) and the political ads more frequent and annoying. The effects of commercials on children are well documented, and with streaming content the messages are less frequent. Of course my daughters have watched both seasons of My Little Pony through Netflix and now play the My Little Pony online game, which leads me to . . .
You aren’t going to miss anything. People seem to fear that without cable or satellite they and their children will fall behind in mainstream culture. Let me lay that all to rest right now; with the notable exception of NFL, everything you might need to reference as a live event is available through a streaming service. My husband and I watched the presidential debates through the WSJ Roku channel, but even if we didn’t have that, the debates were streaming through multiple YouTube sources, CNN.com, and every other large new site. Weather, news, and live events are all on the Web now. If you want to watch American football, enjoy the company of your friends at a sports bar. Every other sporting league offers its content through sites, apps, and beautifully designed streaming services; the only reason NFL is exclusive to cable is the deal it cut with Disney/ABC/ESPN.
This is what PR nightmares are made of.
You’ll never have to deal with cable/satellite customer service again. If it’s one thing cable/satellite providers learned to do over the past few decades, it’s how to ignore their customers and provide minimal service. I can’t make any promises about your Internet service providers, but I can promise that if you ditch cable/satellite you’ll never have to wait on a service rep to watch your shows. Streaming is ridiculously easy; I wrote an article that can help get you started.
Quality and diversity are available in streaming content. A few times a year I end up in a hotel while traveling for business, and as I surf the hotel television offerings I am always struck by how little quality TV is airing on linear television at any given time. With streaming content providers I can pick from the best writing and acting of decades past as well as current television at any time. I can indulge my need for documentaries and then switch over to the last season of Futurama. No matter the time slot, it’s always prime time online. We’re living in an era that contains both the best and worst television ever produced; why let everything into your home when you can choose to just filter and watch the best?