Sunday, September 13, 2015

Contemplating Cutting the Cable Cord

Vicious with Frances de la Tour, Ian McKellen, and Derek Jacobi
is one of the shows that can now be seen online without cable TV.
It's finally happened. Media-obsessed nut that I am, I am actually considering eliminating cable television from my life and just going with Netflix, Amazon, and the Internet. There are several factors in this momentous decision:

1. Too expensive. I live in an area (Queens, New York) where Time Warner Cable appears to have a monopoly. We can't get Fios and I'm fairly sure Optimum, DirectTV and Dish are unavailable. My bundled bill which includes cable for three TVs, internet and phone comes to $190 a month.

2. Everything is online or soon will be. Just about every show I want to watch is available on one of the streaming services or through the web. I don't give a damn about live sports and I can live without the constant news barrage of Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. If anything juicy happens on any of these outlets, Huffington Post will let me know about it.

3. Broadcast channels can be gotten through an antenna (I hope) and the only live shows I care about that require such as set-up are the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Tonys, and the Emmys. (and I can catch clips of those all over YouTube.)

This past week, I've been trying to wean myself away from cable and getting my pop culture fix from other sources. At the gym, I caught a good episode of Bar Rescue while on the elliptical (I don't know why but it seems to be the only place I can watch that show.) On my laptop, I watched two episodes of Difficult People on Hulu. The first two were free, but for the other five, you had to subscribe starting at $7.99 a month. (Screw that, it was sorta funny, but consists mostly of that guy from Parks and Recreation and a redheaded woman bitching about their lives as wanna-be comics.)

I've discovered that most broadcast or cable shows are on their respective network's websites. Project Runway is on MyLifetime and Vicious is on (The latter is wildly inconsistent but it's fun to watch Sir Derek and Sir Ian as a nasty elderly gay couple poking fun at their "great actor" images.) I also have been watching Season 4 of Nurse Jackie on DVDs from Netflix. Season 1 I watched on a DVD bought from the Princeton Record Exchange, Season 2 was from a Promo sampler someone left on a table at my old job and Season 3 I bought from and watched most of on my Kindle. So I've managed to watch most of the series without paying for Showtime. Seasons 5 and 6 are in my Netflix queue. (If Netflix doesn't have a show on its streaming service, they usually have the DVDs.) Strange how quickly TV has changed. First only three channels and only in black and white. Then color. I can recall watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show in black and white and ten years later videotaping episodes of Hill Street Blues on an old-fashioned VCR. What happens when the last VCR player breaks down and no one can play those VHS tapes you see going unsold in used bookstores in tiny little towns in upstate NY?

According to various articles, cable subscriptions are seriously down as more and more viewers cut the cord. Will cable go the way of those VHS tapes, audio cassettes, floppy discs, 8-tracks, print media and vinyl records? This is a major cultural movement and I need more time to assess its impact.

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