Mediawean

Teats.jpgIt’s disturbing how dependent I am on television; I think I’ve never gone more than a week without access to live TV of some sort, and being without it makes me inexplicably nervous.

A year ago I did a price comparison between keeping satellite service, or dropping it and getting shows via the internets, and it was absolutely clear that there was no good reason for me not to ditch the live TV. And still, like a junkie who keeps pledging to quit, here I am a year later, paying even more in monthly fees.

Because I live in the San Francisco Bay area, I’ve psycho-analyzed myself, and I think it goes back to when I was much younger and would come home from school before my parents got back from work. I’d turn on the television just to be reassured that there were still people left, and the Rapture hadn’t occurred and left me behind. (Later I realized that if the Rapture were to occur, the people on television would be the last to go). Even now, coming home to an empty and quiet house gives me the creeps.

But now there’s the internet to reassure me that there are still millions of stupid people all around me. And I haven’t been watching much television ever since I stopped freelancing. I hardly have any free time outside of work. Netflix keeps sending me movies I don’t have time to watch. I’ve bought movies that I was absolutely convinced I had to have, and they’re still in the shrink wrap. I frequently find myself making the asinine complaint that I’ve got more videogames than I have time to play. I’ve got a folder on my Mac called “Projects” that mocks me with half-or-less-completed programming projects I’ve abandoned. And even though I keep pledging to become more literate, I’ve got stacks of books I haven’t read past the introduction. Something’s got to give.

I wouldn’t give up TV shows, of course — that’s just crazy talk. I’m not even embarrassed by that, as I might’ve been ten or even five years ago; TV is where all the good stuff happens these days.

But I did the whole price comparison again last week, and the numbers are even more damning of cable or satellite: I could be saving a little over $300 a year. And that’s buying full seasons of everything I watch, even the series I don’t like that much, and in high definition. That’s right, I could own an entire season of “Heroes” in HD for less than what I’m currently spending to not enjoy it.

And get this: that includes the cost of an Apple TV box. Something is seriously messed up when buying stuff through iTunes and getting an accompanying piece of Apple hardware is cheaper than the alternative.

So I’ve pledged to finally cut the cord for good. No, for real this time. I can do it. I know I can. You’re the one with the problem! Now, whether it means I’ll instantly have more time and become instantly enlightened and read more and learn languages or how to play an instrument, that remains to be seen. If nothing else, I can think about how many cigarettes I can buy with all that extra money.

Update: When I called to cancel this morning (I got up in the morning! See, it’s already working!), as part of the usual customer retention spiel, they offered to give me “free” HD and “free” DVR for a year. That would’ve cut the bill by $20 a month and all but negated the price advantage of going all-internet, and let me keep Sci-Fi channel original movies and those weird “America’s Most Haunted Theme Parks” specials in my life. But — BUT — if they could do it when I threatened to cancel, they could’ve done it all along. And that sense of righteous indignation is far more valuable than $240 a year.

But in case anybody in the Spectre Collie Army is balking at the high cost of your media feed, it might be in your best interest to threaten to cancel.

7 thoughts on “Mediawean”

  1. CHUCK!! what was going on in conyers in the 70’s and 80’s?? I used to do the SAME thing– i was always afraid the rapture had happened whenever i came home to an empty house!! i had three people i knew that i could call, though– if any of those guys were home (my mom’s best friend, my grandmother, and beth hammond’s mom) i was cool. more than once, the sound of the train in old town would wake me up and i would have to go check mom and dad’s bed…

  2. We’ve been without cable/satellite/broadcast TV for almost a decade now and sometimes we miss it, but mostly we’re okay waiting until a full season of a program is on DVD. I got the Netflix streaming to work on my 360 a while ago with a plugin and it was a godsend. It’s so much better watching on my TV as opposed to my computer, even if the TV is still SD. 🙂

    I’ve heard good things about PlayOn (http://www.themediamall.com/playon) but haven’t tried it yet. The cool thing is that you can try it for free and if you like it it’s only a one time $30 fee.

  3. Samantha: well, it’s a side-effect of growing up somewhere rural enough to have fundamentalist churches but urban enough to have both parents working. (And at the risk of sounding bitter: the result of fear-based religion and IMO another example of how the church fails people. Instead of “this is how you can live a better life,” the message that gets drilled into kids’ heads is “if you mess up at all, you’ll be condemned for eternity.”)

    Chris: Yeah, you guys were part of my test case for how it’s possible to survive without live TV. I’ve gotten way too dependent on “Lost” to be able to wait for DVD releases, though, and having to go without “30 Rock” and “How I Met Your Mother” would be a drag.

    I ended up going with an Apple TV (with the rationalization that it was the equivalent of 2.5 cable bills, and was still cheaper than my DVR was). It’s basically just paying Apple for the privilege of giving them more money through the iTunes store, but it helps not to think about it like that. Or to remember that when it was first announced, I said “what a waste of money no way would I ever get one of those.”

    Of all the (legal) ways to get TV shows over the internet, it’s the only one I found that: 1) keeps the media files on the desktop machine so you don’t have to worry about space; 2) has season pass options so you don’t have to pay per episode; and 3) doesn’t require me to boot up Windows and leave the computer running. With that plus streaming Netflix on the 360, I’m all set.

  4. As soon as we caught up on our DVD Lost episodes we started buying individual episodes through Xbox Live the day after they aired. And now that we’ve watched 2 seasons of 30 Rock through Netflix streaming, I may be doing the same for that show.

    If you get hooked on good content even a cheap person like me will pay to watch it. Unless I can get other free internet methods too work. 🙂

  5. Yeah, I think any goal I had of saving time by cutting the satellite is a wash. There’s just too many ways to get content via the internet these days. The media companies are going to have to figure out some way to get a la carte programming to work if they want to stay viable.

  6. Hey Chuck, Karla here!
    I’ve been surviving on PBS (the only channel that isn’t completely fuzzy with no cable or satellite) for a couple of years now, and it’s actually quite liberating! It’s either Antiques Roadshow, This Old House, or “go do something else”.
    Hope you are doing well!!

  7. Hey Karla,
    I don’t have the willpower to go cold turkey (just PBS? ::shudder::) but so far, I haven’t missed the lack of satellite one bit. With hulu.com and cbs.com and comedycentral.com, it’s like they’re just giving TV away.

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