Given Internet alternatives, why do people still pay for cable TV?


Why do you still pay for cable TV?

That’s what today’s New York Times asks, while noting that as the price of damn near everything increases—food and fuel most notably—so, too, does the price of sitting at home and watching TV. Since 1996, price of a cable TV subscription has risen about 77 percent, to an average of $60 per month. (I pay right around $100 for digital cable and Internet access with Time Warner.) The cable TV industry claims that the price is right in line with inflation, but then you have to ask yourself: just what are you paying for, really?

Wasn’t the Internet (and digital distribution) supposed to change all this?

For some of us, it has. My setup: an iMac hooked up to a broadband connection, from which I can grab all the episodes of “Lost” and “The Office” and “John Adams” I want, or whatever Hollywood movie I fancy (not too many of those, to be honest) in wonderful HD (via x264 compression). That’s hooked up to my big screen TV via a cheap HDMI cable; sound goes from the iMac to a proper surround system so I can watch HD rips in full DTS or Dolby Digital. Quite literally, I’m recreating a movie theater in my apartment without any loudmouth strangers ruining the experience. Why “consumers” don’t do this, I’ll never know. For the cost of two cables you get free, on-demand entertainment in glorious quality, legal issues notwithstanding.

Or, you could buy a media extender or Apple TV or that Roku box to accomplish the same thing. The point is, you don’t need to pay for cable TV to watch TV. Yet people do.

The same NYT article says a lot of consumers still see TV and Internet/computers as two different things, oil and water never meant to mix. Sentiments like, “when I come home from work, after sitting in front of a computer all day, I don’t want to see another computer until the next day.” Why people do people such hang-ups with computers?

I could also ask why people pay for cable TV when 99 percent of it is just garbage. Like, I have on in the background DiscoveryHD’s “Jeremy Piven’s Journey of a Lifetime.” Who in their right mind is gonna sit in front of the TV for hours on end watching Piven knock about Southeast Asia? It’s ruubish.

But I have the feeling that I’m already talking to the converted, those who use keenly Hulu and BitTorrent to augment (or supplement) their cable TV watching. Hooray for us.