I grew up in a family that didn’t subscribe to cable TV. We occasionally rented films from the VHS store down the road, or splurged and went to a movie, but cable was expensive and we lived on the outskirts of town or even further from civilization (like on the ranch in Wyoming, or in our log cabin deep in the Tennessee woods).
The only cable I had access to was when we visited Grandma, and oh, what a wonderful thing it was. I consumed reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series, The Carol Burnett Show, and M*A*S*H*, along with old movies like You Can’t Take It With You and The Shop Around The Corner, plus a myriad of cartoons on Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Cartoon Network.
When I got older, I detested the idea of paying for cable when I couldn’t choose each specific channel I wanted, so I decided to go with a streaming and DVD plan from Netflix. I’ve never seriously considered cable, even though I’d enjoy it. I prefer the simplified, streamlined services like Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix. Everything you could ever want to watch ends up online at some point, and the convenience of having a random assortment of channels with a rigid schedule just isn’t appealing.
Many individual channels have recognized this issue and have begun streaming programming, but there’s often a catch — you have to pay for separate streaming services, or have a specific cable package, or you can only see the last two or three episodes. This just serves to put one or more roadblocks between shows and their audience.
Today’s announcement that Time Warner Cable is being considered for purchase by Charter Communications (which means the second and third largest U.S. providers would become a conglomerate, still slightly smaller than Comcast) signals to me that cable companies are beginning to understand their dilemma.
While cable companies do offer some quality programming, the rigidity of their schedule and the chaotic grouping of channels meets resistance from customers who are used to picking and choosing each individual show or film. We’ve become used to a more individualistic approach, rather than a group approach, which is interesting to think about when considering our society — what do other countries, particularly those in less individualistic societies, prefer? Cable, or streaming services? (Do they have a choice?)
The FCC must still look into this deal (Time Warner Cable had, at one point, been attached to Comcast in a potential deal but it was determined that they would face pressure from regulators and the plan was dropped), but it provides a peek into the changes service providers will need to go through in order to reach their audience.
Technology evolves along with society. We’re the driving force behind innovation and evolution, and those who would provide services to us will need to follow suit. Will TV become a thing of the past? With the ability to group your phone, internet, and cable bill together, will TVs, computers and phones eventually merge? In time, will the word television become obsolete?Image Credits: Columbia Pictures