Why I don’t Care if Free TV Disappears from the Net

True Reality Tv

When I flew to Tampa last week, there was a magazine cover that claimed the days of free professional content over the Internet were over.  The cable companies had a way, it claimed, to control the programs available and keep us paying >$100/month for cable.  I didn’t read the article, but I have a guess at how they might do this.  Comcast is currently attempting to buy NBC (if the Justice Department doesn’t have anything to say about that) and NBC has a stake in Hulu.  So, Comcast could limit Hulu to existing cable customers or they could limit the content to make Hulu no longer that important.  Already, changes are afoot that have made Hulu less attractive.  The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are no longer available via Hulu.  Whether or not this is part of the same agenda (getting people to pay for cable) isn’t important.  The less programming available in one place, the less important Hulu is.  But if they succeed I will simply stop watching TV.

First of all, television has become insanely fragmented.  In my parents’ day, there were three channels.  So everyone more or less watched the same thing.  If something happened on TV and you didn’t catch it, you were way out of the loop.  Nowadays there are over 500 channels available for cable subscribers.  Many of these channels are not even available to all cable subscribers.  It depends on what tier package they are subscribed to.  So, nowadays, it’s more likely than not that you will be watching a different television program that me.  In the office, therefore, no one looks at me funny if I didn’t watch American Idol.  After all, the guy in the next cubicle over was watching Shark Week on Discovery channel and the other guy was watching Nurse Jackie on Showtime.  Some of the “biggest” events on TV in recent times like The Sopranos were only available to people willing to subscribe to HBO.  Since I work in an office with older people, I can never talk to them about what I saw on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report because they don’t watch those shows.  Not being able to participate in office (or other social) conversations about what people saw on TV no longer makes you strange.  It’s actually weird when everyone HAS seen the same thing.  Recent television numbers have proven this fact.  In any given season, a hit show has less viewers today than a hit show twenty or thirty years ago.  And, if some show was so amazing that I had to watch it – I just need to wait a while for it to come out on DVD.  That’s how the wife has seen tons of shows from HBO and Showtime that we would have never otherwise seen.

Day Ninety-Two:  Video Games

Second, there are many other things to occupy my time with.  It’s not like the 60s when there was TV or nothing to do indoors.  Nowadays we have the Internet and video games.  I tend to buy about two video games a year because that’s all I even have time to play.  So if I were unable to watch television, I would just play more games.  Among my peers, it’s actually weirder to not have played Modern Warfare 2 than it is to not be watching Modern Family.  Video games have had a bit of a renaissance in the last few years and there are plenty of compelling games to play.  And there has been a huge explosion in quick pick-up games like Plants v Zombies, Fat Princess and Zuma.  So it’s not as though I lack things to do for entertainment.

Finally, in my specific case, I have way too many hobbies, anyway.  I barely have enough time for photography most days and its my favored hobby.  I also have a webcomic with Dan and a blog that I’ve been ignoring a bit too much recently.  So, go ahead TV studios – call my bluff.  Right now, when I watch your programs “for free” on the net, I’m forced to watch advertisements.  If you drive me away from TV, I won’t see any ads.  How does that help you?

Day Two Hundred Seventy-One:  I've Covered Wars, you know!


11 responses to “Why I don’t Care if Free TV Disappears from the Net”

  1. I don’t watch that much TV, online or otherwise. But I’ve got a different perspective than you.

    I work at a company where almost everyone is the same age. So it follows, most people do watch the same shows. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Lost – they all tend to be topics of conversation quite often. Even with my customers, they tend to discuss the TV shows they watch – usually ones I haven’t even heard of since I Don’t have cable. And, worst of all, is if you miss seeing a big sports game. Then you’re completely out of the loop on almost every conversation before every meeting.

    And while I’d rather do other things, I’m surprised at how many people I know who do just like to watch TV (even if there’s nothing really on). Those who don’t pay for cable pretty much only use sites like Hulu. I think if options start dwindling online, people will just watch whatever terribleness they do decide to offer for free.

    • Rather interesting that you have the exact opposite experience at your job. It’s so interesting that almost no one in the offices I’ve worked in watches the same thing. And, in my current one no one has ever brought up any TV shows at all. Of course, the people that sit around me in my cubicle have young children to raise or are very interested in home renovation hobbies.

      The last sentence in your first paragraph may hold the key to how I came to be immune to caring what others have seen. I do not like to watch sports on TV; doesn’t matter the sport. (OK, I like soccer, but only the World Cup) But sports are HUGE in the USA (especially football in Baltimore and Tampa). I dislike watching sports so much that I developed the ability to not care that I was out of the loop in sports at a young age. And, if you can not care about sports in heavy sports towns, you can be capable of not caring about missing any shows.

      Finally, your last paragraph is why I don’t pay for cable. Why would I pay for something I am watching “just because it is on”. My netflix queue is over 100 (maybe 200) items long with movies and shows I’ve never seen, but want to. So why would I just watch some BS on TV because it is on? It just shows how ridiculously rich we are in this country that people will pay hundreds of dollars for something they don’t even care for.

      • On reading your comment about the “fabled water cooler”, I realized that’s exactly why it works at my company. Beyond just being around the same age, I’m constantly around people who make small talk as part of their job. So keeping on top of TV, sports, movies, etc makes you better at what you do – it build rapport, makes you likable, gets you on someone’s good side. The water cooler scenario, in which you feel the need to make conversation with co-workers, just doesn’t happen anymore. Like asking about someone’s kids/wife/husband – do people do that at work still?

        • I do, but I also have coworkers with kids/wives/husbands whose life revolves around such things. If I didn’t, we’d have nothing to talk about.

        • It definitely depends on the person and the office. In this office I have three others in my cubicle. One woman who is always talking about her daughter who’s on weight watchers. One guy who’s always talking about how he loves his brother, but hates his sister-in-law. One guy who talks about his wife and kids. For the most part, no one in that office makes small talk. It’s a very busy office and most people are constantly working. Whenever we do get into conversations it tends to be family related or technology related – especially if someone is complaining about how outdated the tech at work is compared to the super computer they have at home.

          In offices where we were all mostly fresh out of college, we tended to make more small talk, but that was also a less busy office. At any rate, we mostly talked about current events in the news – not so much TV and movies. And there was a guy there that I used to have philosophical debates with. And this guy who was the first muslim guy I ever knew so I used to ask him tons of questions so I could get a first-hand knowledge rather than the bunk spewed by the media.

    • I’m with Kai on this one. Every Wednesday I spend about 30 mins talking about Lost with three other co-workers in the office.

      Granted, our other television pursuits are dissimilar, but we do have that show in common and we’re usually able to make fun of Heroes or 24 each week, even though I watch neither.

      Not enough baseball fans at work, so I usually end up gushing about it to people who don’t care.

      • While this doesn’t invalidate your argument or Kai’s, I’m curious as to whether you went looking for other Lost fans or if there are a lot of Lost fans in your office.

          • Basically, part of my point was that in the olden days, you would just go to the fabled water cooler and anyone you would ask, “Did you see show X?” And there was a 1/3 chance that they did. But now there’s a 1/500 chance (ok, ok….to give real numbers I’d need to know the percentages watching each of the channels) that someone saw the same program as you.

          • Oh, ok. It kind of grew from asking around when the season was starting if they were into Lost

  2. Here’s what my good friend Lawrence Kwan commented on FB:

    “This is becoming true for more and more people. I personally have not watched broadcast or cable tv in months. The occasional tivo-ed episode over a friend’s shoulder is about the limit.”