Monday, April 25, 2022

We Are Not "Back to Cable" - Yet

Morning, friends!

Today I want to ramble to you about a complaint I've been seeing on social media lately and how it's not entirely accurate.

There are a lot of streaming services available - Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock - and I subscribe to many of them. Before YouTube TV became a thing, this was how we watched our shows. Because so many of these services have exclusive shows and movies, many people feel pressured to pay for all of them. This has led to a lot of "we're back where we started" takes but I'm here to let you in on a secret: we are not.

I don't know if people are forgetting what having cable was like or what, but this current way is not it. If anything, YouTube TV is closest to the old way and even that is so much better. Let me explain in case you're frothing at the mouth over this "travesty."

If you wanted the fancy channels, which back in the day were networks like ESPN, Cartoon Network, and The Disney Channel (excluding the actual premiums like HBO and Starz), it took some planning. You had to call the cable company and buy the package with those channels, then schedule a time for a technician to come install your system for you. And if you only wanted two or three extra channels? Too bad. You were on the hook for the other 247 you didn't want. This is why YouTube TV is closer to the old cable way: I pay extra for a "sports package" so I can watch NFL RedZone - my son loves it and it's really the best way to watch football. That package includes a handful of other networks I have never watched. And so it goes.

Don't think I was just going to gloss over the fact that someone had to come to your house so you could watch sports or Dragon Ball Z. I am so glad that the technology has advanced to the point where we don't need this anymore. COVID concerns aside, who wants a stranger poking around their house? And that's not even factoring in the waiting. The appointment windows were so wide, you likely had to take a whole day off from work to make sure you were home when they arrived. None of these streaming services require any of that. You don't even have to talk to anyone. How is this "going back to cable" again?

I will grant the peanut gallery this small concession: you do have to pay more money to watch all of the shows you want. But, as of now, most of them don't come in a package with unwanted channels - the Disney/Hulu/ESPN bundle being an exception. Could that change, especially with Netflix "in trouble" at the moment? Sure. But let's be clear here: all of these streaming services being available does not mean we're going backwards. The only real equipment you would need to use these services is a Roku or Fire Stick, and that's if you don't already have a Smart TV. And I promise you that one of those little gadgets is infinitely cheaper than a cable bill [because you only pay for them one time and can install on your own].


If you're one of the people who thinks we're back in the cable days, I'll throw you another bone: paying for all of these services adds up. The days of saving money by "cutting the cord" may be gone, since the networks have almost fully shifted their properties to streaming. And if you're miffed about that? I get it. I probably spend too much money on the services I have, but I only live once so I'm going to enjoy what's on TV (too far?).

But let's not pretend that we've rolled all the way back to the hassles of cable television. You don't have to pay for a number of channels you don't want just to watch one. You don't need to make time for someone to come to your house and install any equipment. And if you're busy on the day of an episode, you can watch it on your own time. (Side note: YouTube TV's unlimited cloud DVR is great for this - you have nine months.) I realize that services drop entire seasons all at once, but it's not like the shows disappear after a week or two.

Yes it's really easy to say we're reverting to the old way, and you know I love to complain about mundane issues. But the real problem for a lot of people is that they feel an inherent need to be in the loop. You have to watch Ozark and How I Met Your Father and Moon Knight and Halo so you know what's what. And you're mad because you need to use four different services to do it. But networks having exclusives is not new, and you don't actually need to watch every show. If you really wanted to jump in the wayback machine though, you would cut out the streaming and buy all of them on DVD (or Blu-Ray, I guess).

So what is this about, really? You can watch your favorite shows whenever and wherever you want. No one has to come to your house to show you how to work your device. And you aren't locked in to any sort of contract. It may be a pain - financially or otherwise - to have all of these streaming services. But until some company forces you to have Fox Nation just so you can also stream South Park, we have not "gone back to the dark ages." Even if it may not be cheaper, watching TV has never been more convenient. And that is not a claim you could have made with traditional cable back in the day. So quit worrying about some dystopian future and enjoy the hundreds of hours of great TV at your fingertips.

But if this guy shows up in your neighborhood? Then you're allowed to be worried. 

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