Cable Providers, Caged Animals

By Julian Rodriguez,

I cut the cord a year ago, and cutting it had the equivalent glory of hunting a caged animal. The cable provider is tied to nonnegotiable bundles; there’s little sales representatives can do to tilt the balance of the channel lineup. Their only weapons are rewards, discounts, and more services at a higher monthly cost offering “higher” discounts: spend more, save more! Finally, after hearing the cable provider mooing in pain over the phone, the cord was gone and only my internet service survived the massacre.

I said goodbye to cable for several reasons, but above everything I did it as a matter of principle. I had access to hundreds of channels and was paying $104 per month ($162 with internet and $180 with Netflix), and among the hundreds I only watched a few: CNN, Fox News, Nat Geo, Discovery, Animal Planet, and Food Network. Yes, I’m one of those obscure humans who doesn’t follow sports—I just don’t have the time—and the only true, yet ephemeral, love affairs I have with sports happen every few years: the Olympics and the World Cup. However, we can watch those for free on NBC, Univision, or Telemundo without cable.

No cable or satellite company offers channels à la carte, just bundles with infinite content I have a hard time relating to: reality shows of egocentric people confined to apartments with no food and an unlimited supply of liquor. Wonderful! A lab-rat experiment without rats. Yes, I apologize if I can’t relate to cheap, cruel, and dangerous social experiments on television. So, if I was watching only six channels the monthly cost per channel was $17.33. This means that I spent on these six channels about $1,200 per year, that’s more than the GDP per capita (PPP) of Afghanistan. Of course, I excluded local channels from this list because local channels are free over-the-air. And if I cut the cord, local channels will still be there for me, like angels (angels once threatened by startup Aereo).

Are these six channels worth $1,200 a year? The answer is somewhat flat: it depends. In my case: no. But, that’s just because I don’t follow sports and I have been able to circumvent the absence of the channels I used to watch by tuning more to local television, buying a $39 DVR (made in the USA, to my surprise), reading more ad-supported news online, and giving myself a healthy diet of Twitter feeds to stay up-to-date. The Food Network and a million more sites have pretty good recipes, and I am a Nat Geo Magazine subscriber—this keeps me at vanguard with the one organization that defined those of us with a thirst for exploration. Movie and entertainment wise, I have smart TVs with access to Netflix… enough said about those.

A year later into this project, I don’t feel the world around me is foreign. From time to time I get a glimpse at cable news networks and their screaming heads… I feel for a moment safe and away from the mainstream noise. I enjoy too much responsibly balanced news to allow my life to be infected with pundits with an agenda. Still, not everything is clear skies without cable; it haunts me to be locked away from live coverage of meaningful national and international news events—coverage that’s done diligently by TV networks with proper resources. Missing critical moments might be just the thing that justifies paying $1,200 a year. Fear is the greatest motivator.









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