Me and TV

I had been a DirecTV subscriber for years, mostly so I could watch sports, which is the only reason I have a television. I’ve gone long stretches of my life without a TV, but it is a nice convenience for when you’re stuck at home with nothing better to do. I do enjoy watching baseball and football. Some of the long form dramas produced by the big cable channels have been good too. Otherwise, I’ve never developed the habit of following sitcoms and serials. I doubt I could name one show popular in prime time.

Back in January, I decided to cancel my subscription. The cost had reached the point where it no longer made sense. The game DirecTV plays is they slowly jack up the monthly fee until you decide you’ve had enough and call to cancel. They haggle with you and offer a discount if you stay with them. It is a crazy way to do business, but I suppose it works for them. Most Americans hate confrontations over money and most Americans hate haggling. My Arab friends love DirecTV.

The haggle to finally get free took exactly 25 minutes. I knew what was coming so I was prepared to enjoys it. I allowed the customer retention rep to think he had a real chance to get me to change my mind. We went back and forth for about ten minutes and then he threw me a curve by transferring me to his supervisor. He and I did the dance for another ten minutes and I finally prevailed. The remainder of the conversation was going through a surprisingly long list of details in order to cancel television.

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The funny thing about cutting the cord, at least for me, is I’m probably watching more television now than when I had a subscription. I have an Amazon Fire and I have a Prime account. I no longer go to stores, other than for groceries, so I get good use of the Amazon account. I’m one of those people who gets more than his annual fee in free shipping. That also means I have access to all sorts of video content on the Fire. Amazon does offer a lot of video content on their system.

I also loaded the Kodi app on the thing so I have the underground streaming services for just about anything you can imagine. I’m fond of Pakistani cinema so it is nice to be able to get that whenever I want. The Kodi app is to television what Napster was to the music industry. It is a tool to allow the black market to undermine the oligopoly controlling the US television business. At some point, Big Cable will figure out how to shut them down, but the damage will have been done and the cost of winning will kill the cable model.

Anyway, the reason I’m probably watching more television now is that I have more to watch. It used to be that I’d fruitlessly scan the channels looking for anything that caught my interest. Unless a game was on, I’d end up leaving the TV on and wandering off to do something else. Other than sporting events, it was mostly just background noise as I got tired of the process of finding something worth watching. Throw in the excessive commercials and the whole process was more punishment than pleasure.

Now, I have a whole list of programs I’ve queued up so when I want to watch a show, I turn on the show or movie. The fact that it is commercial free makes the experience more enjoyable. I’m binge watching, as the kids say, the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. It’s nice to watch two episodes back-to-back. By the time I settle into watch TV, it is around 8:00 PM so I watch two episodes then go to bed. I usually read or write for a few hours before bed so it works out well, so it works for me to do both.

It sort of reminds me of what television was like when I was a kid. We watched TV in the same way people went to the movies. It was a planned event. After school, we only watched TV when the weather was bad. My dad would watch the evening news on occasion, but usually, the TV was off until after dinner and some popular prime-time show that we watched as a family. In other words, television was not the center of life. It was just one of many cheap entertainments.

It’s not hard to see where it is heading. The days of the cable subscription are nearing an end. Old people will continue to prefer that model, mostly because it is simple and familiar. In time, the on-demand model will figure out how to appeal to geezers who don’t like change. I’m not quite a geezer, but I appreciate that going cordless is a bit of hassle. I had to fiddle with the Fire and load the Kodi app onto it. Just as Facebook is now dominated by seniors, these cordless services will soon be common among the geezers.

The other change on the TV front is I had to get a new XBox. The old one died, mostly from lack of use, I suspect. I’m not much of a gamer, but on a rainy day or when I have people to the ghetto for drinks, it is a nice to have item. I bought a new one and it has a Blu-ray player, which is something I never experienced. Having watched my first Blu-ray disc, I’m not seeing a big difference. It’s a little better, but I suspect you have to have an Ultra-HD TV to really appreciate the higher quality.

The comical part of the XBox was that I had to download 1.5 GB of updates before I could use the thing. I’m old enough to remember when computer storage always had the letter ‘K” in it. Once that was done, I loaded my first Blu-ray only to learn that the Blu-ray app needs to download an update. Then the controller needed a firmware update. I bet it took three hours of prep just to use the stupid thing. A big part of modern life is waiting for your electronics to prepare themselves for your use.

Like a junkie just out of rehab, I’m off TV and I swear this is it for me.

Reprinted with permission from The Z-Man Blog.

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