Before we started our own streaming revolution I read a Wired article, Cutting the Cord is going to Suck in 2016. It lowered my expectations and I’m glad I read it. We’ve been streaming television for several years (mainly Netflix) but about six months ago we began making some major changes to cable services.
Partially Replacing Cable
First, we dropped my premium cable package and went with something like basic. We still get broadcast channels plus CNN, Fox, CNBC, SyFy, History, and so forth, but rarely watch any of them. WE find commercial television impossible to watch. I still watch CBS live for “Survivor” though. *smiles*
Must Haves: HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu
HBO was the only premium channel and it was dropped, but we began streaming HBO Now through Apple TV. I mean, HBO means “Game of Thrones”!! Netflix is still very prominent, but we also added Hulu. We even stream CNBC during market hours rather than watch over cable. Oh, and we even dropped the cable DVR (yeah, this was a whiskey-tango-foxtrot).
Buying Season Passes
With the savings from the reduced cable costs I’ve felt much better about buying season passes to a lot of my fave shows like Bates Motel, Gotham, Better Call Saul, Turn: Washington’s Spies, and many others.
NFL Football… Hopeful
The main thing I don’t know yet is how life will be come football season. We no longer get NFL Networks, which I really liked. The plan is to buy a $99 NFL GamePass which gives you all 256 games of the season. The catch seems to be that I’m going to have to stream from my desktop computer, although there seems to be some activity aimed at bringing it to Apple or maybe Xbox (we use this also, btw).
UPDATE: I didn’t realize that NFL GamePass can be streamed through Apple TV’s AirPlay from my iPad. I think there’s something similar on Xbox also. The question in my mind is: will this be HD based on the iPad or TV? Even if it is good quality, it’s still just one more wrinkle in the effort to cut the cord from cable.
All of the changes felt weird for a while. Brains had been wired to those six commercial breaks every seven minutes. So it took some getting used to watching shows uninterrupted. Even now, occasionally, I’ll turn on the local news just to have some chatter in the background. However, we binge a lot now. That means, open a series and watch several episodes in a row. If you love stories, this can become pure addiction. And I’m already backing off from this a bit.
The War Rages On
The changes that streaming is introducing to television is epic. And there’s a war raging in the ranks of broadcasters, cable channels, cable providers and production companies because they are on the verge of losing a lot of advertising revenues. Broadcast television was built on advertising dollars and the roots run deep. If you at program development, you can’t help noticing that many shows were created for advertisers.
Anyway, it feels like that wild west. And some content providers are still determined to make you will regret the day you even heard about streaming.
For example, we found CBS especially punitive. First, in order to stream CBS you have to have a cable service account. But they also want an extra $5 a month for the streaming app, and there is no option to buy a pass without having a cable provider. WTF?
Equally incomprehensible is the History Channel. It’s app requires a cable provider account, but there is no commercial free service. And their hit show “Vikings” isn’t available on their app. They will let you pay $45 for 10 episodes (on Apple TV, at the start of the season). They’ve reduced it since the season ended to about $38 but if you pay for the individual episodes it’s only $24 for all ten episodes. WTF? Is anyone doing the math? We’ll watch how this plays out, but we may just wait an see if Netflix or Hulu pick this up.
UPDATE: Hulu came through with the latest season of “Vikings”. Each time you score one like this it helps justify the $11/month fee.
That leads to the question of how much you should pay for a season. We’ve decided that a cost greater than $2.75 an episode is provider gluttony. And many of our favorite show we enjoy can be purchased from much less. The key to living in this new environment is to simply wait. Like, I enjoy “The Walking Dead” but not enough to pay for it. I’ll wait for Netflix or Hulu to pick up the season.
I know several people who never watch television. And who could blame them if you look at commercial bombardment as a kind of attack on your mind. But since turn of the millennium, television programs have gotten better in every possible way; movies also. It is truly a golden age of television.
I don’t watch “Real Housewives” anymore or any of the reality stuff, so I can’t be sure about every genre. I did watch a couple episodes of “Kardashians” once. Some football player was going to marry one of them. I wasn’t drawn in.
Then there’s movies. Apple TV has provided something new, bundles. You can buy all of “The Hunger Games” in a package, so I snapped it up, along with “Hobbit” and Christian Bale’s “Batman” and other cools stuff. The prices for bundles range from $20-$40 or thereabouts. HBO Now includes “The Godfather Saga”, all three movies. It’s a must watch weekend marathon every few years. One more reason I love HBO.
End of an Era
It would be shameful to blame advertisers for what the old system has become. They invented the past fifty years of television; well, prolly even longer. But they began implementing their demise when they started increasing the number of commercials that can be crammed into three minutes. Check it any evening, I routinely count over eight commercials in three minutes.