Death of Cable

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TV, the acronym for that stands for television, the phenomenon that changed information distribution and entertainment methods ever since its birth in Britain in 1936. Most people from the baby boomers age visualize an old metal box with straight black antennae on the top. However, my generation, somewhat between what is called generation Y & Z, think of sleek black screens, YouTube and any device that can use the internet. Once upon a time, getting a multitude of channels relied essentially on whether or not you had a cable on your TV, otherwise you were stuck with whatever your antennae or dish picked up. Nowadays, all you need is a PC or android, or anything else with a browser and video playing capabilities, and wireless internet.

Bloggers, geeks and digital economists have noted the gradual change in how people obtain the latest episode of a favourite show or the most current news. Everyone is on the net; very few turn on their TV. Or is that the case? The sleek black screens are definitely not out of business yet, as they still get used by gaming consoles, which include apps like Netflix, and by people hooking up their computers to them. My uncle used to have a dish so he could watch foreign channels at home. Now it has been replaced with an old computer hooked up to the TV, so he can source all his foreign television from the net. SmartTVs are able to hook into your internet on its own, or you can use devices specially made to synchronize your TV with the net like the Google Nexus Q, or with Boxee TV (Meredith, 2012). Therefore, cable is likely to be out of business but not television screens.

Why would one spend money for costly channel packages when television programs are available through high-speed internet with no monthly download/streaming cap? Many people have seen the price differences and gotten rid of their cable. Though currently, trend watchers like Drew Prindle advises people to take packages that have high speed internet with basic cable as companies offer better deals with the combination of the two as opposed to paying for just the internet. Personally, the last time there was cable at my house with more than 7 channels was probably 7 years ago. Everyone in my family gets what we cannot on those 7 channels on our various devices from iPhones, to desktops and laptops.

As a university student now, I still watch TV shows but not on a television set, but through my tablet using the internet. A day after my favourite shows have aired, I access websites like Global TV and CTV to watch the uploaded web versions available for viewers for a week. Am I annoyed that I have to wait one day after it aired to be able to watch it? No, in fact I prefer it. Most people in my generation do not care to have cable or as students cannot afford to, so we rely on the internet for everything TV. Using the internet, I have the option to playback a specific part of the episode or to pause it for a while when I need a break. And an episode is available to me on the internet for free for a week after its air date, or if I pay a fee, I would have access to it anytime I want on Netflix. Unfortunately, the websites I mentioned above have adapted to increased net viewers and designed their web so that you get commercials on the internet as well as on cable. There was a point of time in which you could watch your shows on Global TV or CTV website without being bothered by advertisements, but they worked out a way to force you to watch it before you can go onto the next segment of the show. Clever corporates.

As I mentioned above, I watch my shows on my tablet. I carry it around with me in the house as I fetch laundry, pour myself a glass of milk, throw a pizza in the oven, stir some curry, and go on a walk around the house (cause you got to stay in range) and a multitude of other in house activities. I can watch Criminal Minds literally from any nook or cranny in my house, while doing anything, though I would advise you do not chop vegetables, particularly onions, while watching Criminal Minds lest you want to lose a finger. Could I do the same thing with cable TV? I would have nowhere near the same sort of freedom.

I reckon I will never get cable in my life, being a part of the generation that know how to source their information and entertainment without it. And the entertainment and business world is well aware of that change in perception in the newer generation. There are shows now, like Arrested Development, that source exclusively out of Netflix. They are simply not available on cable anymore, and if you want to watch it, you have to go on the web or Netflix. Shows like CBC, Fox and Global may be big on cable, but they are struggling to keep pace with the countless upstart young solely web-oriented news sites like Huffington’s Post.

The only real reason cable is currently staying afloat is the difference in quality. Not everything on the net is HD quality, whereas you can get cable packages today where most of it is or is pretty damn close to being. We all know about those fabulous YouTube videos that can leave you laughing for days, well these do not appear in such bad shape on your small computer screen but put it on a home theatre screen and it is painful. People like to watch things on big screens with vibrant and crisp colours. The internet just has not developed that video quality when streaming. According to Dan Rayburn’s research, mostly provided by Conviva*, “60% of all streams experienced quality degradation” (Check out his blog about his opinion on this topic). Waiting for buffering and refreshing your browser a billion times is irritating for sure, but as internet video capabilities get better, even those qualms will disappear.

Most digital trend observers like Nick Mokey and Drew Prindle have collectively agreed that within ten years-time cable will be outdated like 60s fashion. So folks, it’s a short matter of time before you start telling kids, “Did you youngsters know that back in the day we used to get TV shows through a black wire called the cable?” Because with the way entertainment technology is heading, cable is dying out.

-Purple Inkling

*Note for those of you who do not know, Conviva is, according to them, the “Global Leader in Pre-emptive Video Stream Optimization” (Google search result).

References:

Meredith, Leslie. “Making the Switch from Cable to Internet TV” Tech News Daily. (November 9, 2012) Accessed May 28, 2013. <http://www.technewsdaily.com/15404-making-the-switch-from-cable-to-internet-tv.html>

Prindle, Drew. “How to Cancel Cable TV and Save with Free Internet TV” Digital Trends. (November 8, 2012) Accessed May 21, 2013. <http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/how-to-cancel-cable-and-get-tv-on-your-pc/>

Rayburn, Dan. “Think Streaming Will Replace Cable TV? This Data On Streaming Quality Proves Otherwise”. (May 1, 2013) Accessed May 25, 2013. <http://blog.streamingmedia.com/the_business_of_online_vi/2013/05/think-streaming-will-replace-cable-tv-this-data-on-streaming-quality-proves-otherwise.html>

Trueman, Chris. “John Logie Baird and Television” History of Learning Site. Accessed May 25, 2013. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/about-the-author.htm>

And the cartoon image at the start is courtesy of WebDonuts <http://www.webdonuts.com/2012/01/cable/>.

One comment on “Death of Cable

  1. Jaf says:

    Interesting article! I actually do still watch TV because we have free cable at our apartment. :) Although sometimes it’s so hard to be free at the right time, so I especially love channels like CTV that actually put up their shows so that I can watch them not illegally. Anyway, well done.

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