Just Sayin’

I think some people miss the point behind cutting the cable.

Cutting the cable has been around for a while. It’s an expression used when you decide to terminate cable service. That would’ve once been unthinkable. When I was a child — yeah, here we go.

I’m a boomer, in my sixties. I’ve seen the rise of the microwave and electronics. Cable television came to my neighborhood while I was in high school. Before cable, we were dependent on ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. One of those networks had two channels in our area.

Reruns were the norm. “Bonanza”, “Gunsmoke”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “Perry Mason” came on throughout the day, along with every version of a Lucille Ball’s offerings, game shows like “Jeopardy” and “Password”, and talks shows like “The Merv Griffin Show”. As this was a rural, churchy area, so we also had a lot of gospel music sang off-key with with a twang, and plenty of Bible thumping.

Cable, then, expanded our ability to watch different reruns on other channels. We had, I think, thirty-two channels and we paid about twenty dollars a month. None were ‘premium’ channels; HBO, Showtime, and offerings like that were just being thought of and begun in those days. It didn’t come to my area until I’d left the area in 1974.

Still, cable offered us more. That was the point. Then, the point became, cable is offering the same thing over and over, or offering us things that doesn’t interest us. Upon returning to the United States after some overseas assignment, my wife and I subscribed to cable television. It was pretty good for a while. A&E was delivering fresh BBC television shows like “Ballykissangel” and “Doctor Who”. TBS provided reruns. “Original” programming was still a number of years away, along with reality shows.

Off we went to somewhere else outside the U.S. This time, upon returning, we signed up for cable, with some premium offerings.

It was no longer a sweet deal. The price had jumped to over fifty dollars a month. Pausing to put that into perspective, my income was about twenty-five thousand. Our new sports car cost fifteen thousand. Our phone bill (cell phones weren’t on the scene yet) was about twenty-five dollars a month. So fifty a month was a chunk.

Back to cable. Premium movies had already been seen, so I was paying for movie reruns, and they showed them over and over and over. The cable company boasted that we had one hundred channels. Our point was, there was nothing on that we wanted to watch.

That trend worsened, in my mind. We went to a hundred and forty plus channels, two hundred channels, dozens of premium offerings. Prices climbed, but nothing was on. By the time I cut the cable, we’d curtailed the premium offerings. No reason to subscribe because they offered so little. By then, we could rent videos, and then discs at Blockbusters and other places. Eventually, Netflix evolved.

We cut the cable ten years ago. I went with Roku and subscribed to Netflix. I remain a Netflix subscriber. I also subscribe to Hulu basic and Amazon Prime. Others come and go, usually for a month at a time. I’m not the demographic target, though; I have no interest in watching television on my phone.

I monitor streaming offerings, and frequently try them out on a trial basis. They’ve become bloated and useless. Let’s talk SlingTV as an example. They’re offering over a hundred channels for just $65 a month. But looking at them, I know that I’ll end up watching very little of that.

The same happens with countless offerings. They think signing on to more channels is a big deal. It’s not; it goes back to the same problem that plagued us when we had four channels: nothing was on that we wanted to watch.

Original programming helps the situation these days. So does stealing ideas from other countries or importing television series and movies from other countries. As we discovered with A&E, and then BBC America, the rest of the world has fantastic stuff. In example, one show that’s currently doing well in the U.S. in “The Masked Singer”. Just as “Survivor” was an import, so is “The Masked Singer”; it came from Korea.

In the end, this is another rant, innit? Just an aging American musing about the ways that the world does and doesn’t change.

At least with remotes, it’s easier to change the channel. You know what we had to do when I was in high school?

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