How Not to Rethink Cord Cutting
Netflix stock is tanking this week after the streaming media giant reported 200k fewer subscribers last quarter. They had forecast an increase of over a 1M.
Team Sankary were early adopters of cutting cable. We went full streaming about five years ago. At the time there was a lot of hand wringing about what we’d be able to watch, what we would be missing, how this whole thing was going to work. Same sort of hand wringing that we went through when we eliminated our landline telephone.
At that time, for those of you born after 1990, there were only three choices for video entertainment.
- Over the Air
Over the air served me well the first 20 years of my life and about 18 years at the lake. Full disclosure, my father bought our first color Tv when I was about 20. Pros of OTA is it was free, and uh.. it was free. Surprisingly, there was a significant improvement to OTA in the late 2000s when HD came long and all of a sudden, we had 4X the number of channels available as the old channel 4 became 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 and so forth. What filled those expanded bands were nostalgia TV where old farts like me could watch public domain shows that hadn’t seen a broadcast screen in like 40 years. That was fine at the Cabin, where the alternative is watching the ants crawl across the pavement.
Cable had a long run at our house. When we bought the house in 1995, we signed up for basic cable. I think it was about $10.00 a month. Supposed to only have some local channels and maybe the weather channel. When I plugged the cable into the TV, I discovered we had the full gamut of available channels. Cable wasn’t very good at keeping track of that stuff. I guess the home’s previous owner had the platinum package. I made a note to call the cable company and let them know about the mix-up, but I wasn’t as organized back them as I am now, and I kept forgetting to let them know. For about a decade. At some point, the cable company introduced the hated “box”, which changed everything. Now we were paying an extra $5.00 or so per TV to “rent” a box that they could better regulate what we paid for. Our bill quickly topped the $100.00 a month, and off I went looking for other options.
Satellite was next. Dudes came out and put a dish on our roof. Assuaged my fears that we wouldn’t get service if there was weather because the technology had improved so much that there actually very few disruptions to satellite service. I saw an infographic that showed that JD Power said Dish was the #1 tv service on the planet for happy customers, and their downtime was less than 1%.
In reality this was complete BS of course. A light mist would cause the picture to pixelate. And in the winter, snow would accumulate on the dish, and we were screwed. Felt like that 1% only occurred in prime time or at critical moments in sporting events. Price for Satellite, BTW, was around $50.00 a month if memory serves.
Nothing like competition to bring down monopolies. Cable responded with a cheaper rate and, after we’d had one service for the two year minimum, we’d switch to the other.
Still, by 2016 or so our cable bill, combined with our landline and internet, all from the same monopoly, was almost $200.00 a month.
That’s when I got serious about cutting the cord. Initially, highspeed internet and subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu were almost $125.00 per month cheaper than cable. Even factoring in Amazon Prime, which we were paying for anyway because of the delivery fees, worked out to a significant savings. So, I asked Mrs S to make a list of what she considered “must see TV”, figured out where to steam most of her shows, receiving tacit approval to cut the cord.
We actually did the hybrid thing. I installed a modern digital antenna on the roof for local channels, streaming for everything else. BTW, it was quite cathartic to unscrew the dish, cut the line and toss that bitch off the roof. I replaced it with a free antenna on Dish’s pole. Even better, connected the antenna feed to the pre-wired cable company cable to get a signal through the whole house. Felt a bit like I was “stick’n it to the man”, building my free tv network on their investments.
By now you’re probably saying to yourself, as I sort of am “cool story bro.. what’s the point”.
Over the last five years, I’ve been watching as the delta between what we’re paying for streaming services and our old cable bill of $200 a month as gotten significantly shrunk. For example, of you want to watch ESPN, you have three streaming options- YouTube TV at $65.00, FuboTv, $80.00 or Sling at $50ish.
Netflix has more than doubled since we first subscribed. Licensed TV- series if you will have been pulled off the Netflix’s of the world so networks can have their own streaming services, all for about $10.00. Disney, HBO, Apple+… the list is long and getting longer.
So what’s the prop, business speak for are you going to go back to cable? Short answer is no. One serious benefit of all this streaming has been a significant reduction in the number of TV ad I see. So much so that I find myself almost intolerant of ads. With the exception of live sports, I don’t think there’s anything that I watch with ads. Matter of fact, I am willing to pay extra to avoid ads. Many times I’ve started to watching something on iMDB or one of the other ad supported streaming services, only to see and ad, realize what was happening and turn off the show. There’s nothing I’ve found that is good enough to motivate me to sit through an ad to watch it.
I’m not alone, network programing is tanking big time. Granted there’s nothing that would motivate me to watch a reality show, talent show or anything with a Kardashian in it. And, streaming has given the networks far more leeway with programing, getting past some of the restrictions the FCC and the live-to-be-morally-outraged crowd put on broadcast shows. Example NBC, through Peacock as a new show starring Craig Robertson and Claudia O’Dohetry. Funny show, sitcom about a couple down on their luck types trying to make money by competing in a python hunting contest in the everglades. The streaming version has drops F-Bombs in the first minute. Personally I don’t mind, I sort of do that too. I would suggest that the fully nude 60 year old fat guys (see me for example) fully nude in a locker room trying to dig change out from under chairs.. I didn’t need to see that. But, it did help me understand some of my wife’s ongoing challenges in her life. I have not rolled around on the floor nude in decades. But still, as Peter in Family Guy says “I am hideous”.
I was one of the 200K people who dropped Netflix in the last month. Personally I was getting tired of what seemed liked weekly price increases. Netflix was careful never to raise their subscription more than a dollar or two, but after a few months, it adds up. I was also sick of their uncharted for 4K, or more than one screen. 4K is kinda standard now, just saying. Lastly, after 2 year in lockdown with nothing but Netflix, there just wasn’t that much left to watch that If found compelling.
We replaced Netflix with Hulu. Hulu has some new content that looked interesting. I was into Handmaid’s Tale for example. Hulu won’t last once summer comes because we can’t watch it at the lake. They have restrictions that allow for only one market per account. You can only change a couple times a year. Don’t understand it, don’t like it.
I think the new model for streaming for us will be to add and drop services like we change shirts. Subscribe to one for a while, binge a few shows, finish them, then drop the service, and move to something else for a while. The bad news for the services is this creates a volatile revenue forecast. And, if they lose, there’s no guarantee I’m coming back, and since they can’t reach me very well to incent me with new programming… it’s a problem.