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Is it time to cut the cable TV cord?

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2013-05-02


A few months back I received an e-mail from my satellite TV service. What it essentially said was that my cost for their service would be going up this year like it has almost every other year. And while they're sorry about that, they also wanted me to know that they're dedicated to providing me the best programming content they can.

This e-mail got me thinking; what exactly am I paying for? As I flipped randomly around the TV dial I saw that mostly it seems as if I'm paying for lots of sports channels and loads of awful reality series neither of which I really watch. In fact, I figured that last winter I might have only watched a few hours of new TV series each week.

So I wondered, could Bert Ehrmann, a bonafide TV junkie, “curt the cord,” cancel my satellite service and being using legal web TV services only like Netflix, Hulu and iTunes instead?

I started by doing the math. Last year I watched around 15 non-network series from The Walking Dead to Veep to Doctor Who. While I watch other shows like How It's Made and Wheeler Dealers, I figured I could probably live without knowing how cheese is made or how to fix a busted '86 Plymouth Turismo.

I calculated that it if I bought these 15 shows via iTunes and subscribed to Hulu+ to watch network series and other odds and ends it would cost me around $430 per year to do so. Now, let's assume that I've forgotten to include a bunch of shows on my list, so for safety's sake let's double that number and figure on Internet-only-TV costing me $860 per year.

Admittedly, that number sounds insane – $860 per year for zombies and a time traveling doctor?! But what's absolutely insane is that this number still less than what I pay each year for the mid-level satellite programming package plus HBO! And at least if I ever went to cord-cutting route I'd only be paying for what I actually watch and most of the shows would be mine to keep afterwards.

One reason I like having a satellite TV service is that old shows I used to dig and still enjoy watching on occasion like The Twilight Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek turns up from time to time on various channels. But The Twilight Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek are all available on the Netflix instant service that I also pay for, so why watch them on some random TV channel when I can call them up online whenever I want?

Now I understand the realities of TV and that most channels aren't designed to appeal to me. However, one would think that in the 210+ channels I get there would be something I'd be interested in watching each night of the week. But this TV season there's been long stretches of me not watching all that much at all.

In the previous years during these dry spells of TV I used to be able to watch interesting series on channels like Discovery, TLC, Syfy and A&E. But I can't say that I've watched much of these networks over the last few years as each and every one of them have turned to airing an almost constant stream of “reality” TV series. Honey Boo Boo has taken over TLC, Syfy dedicates nights to Ghost Hunters, Discovery loves it's faux men shows like Deadliest Catch and A&E seems to have Duck Dynasty on infinite repeat.*

Now if you're into Amish Mafia, Next Great Baker, Face Off or Storage Wars then more power to you. But everytime I see an ad for one of them it makes me question why TV keeps getting more and more expensive when reality shows like those flood the channels and are so cheep to produce?

Honestly, though I'm having a hard time justifying my cable bill I still don't think I'm ready to cut the cord yet. While I probably will go to a lower/cheaper channel package in the near future, I enjoy watching movies on the service and don't think that I'd be capable of waiting for HBO shows like Game of Thrones to eventually be released on iTunes or Blu-ray months after they air on the channel. However, if the current trends of TV continue with low-brow reality series becoming the norm and less and less interesting dramas and comedies being released, cutting the cord could happen for me.

Are you listening Comcast, Dish and DirecTV? Are you listening network and cable channels? I'm your biggest fan, your online ally and if I'm considering “cutting the cord” you've got serious troubles in your future. Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.

* What I find most humorous is that one of the most popular reality shows is Honey Boo Boo which received around 3 million viewers each episode. Which is great until you take into consideration that 3 million viewers is just .009% of the population of the US. That's right, .009% now makes a hit series.

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