in media, new media, television

Cord cutting or saying goodbye to cable

I’ve just come back from a four month sojourn in Japan and China, and a pleasant side effect of this trip was a break from North American media. I say that, but I had pretty much unbroken contact with any media I decided was worth watching, I simply didn’t access it through traditional means.

Japanese television, despite its charming commercials and genuine enthusiasm for the absurd, was nothing I could watch consistently. Instead I relied on downloads and streaming media, sometimes through a VPN connection. The VPN allowed me to access American sites like hulu.com along with the UK iPlayer app, all by telling these services that I’m actually in their country of origin.

In China this solution was less effective for streaming media, because China’s internet is slooooow. But since a VPN was an absolute necessity to access Facebook, Twitter, anything hosted by WordPress and practically anything else China’s Internet censors whimsically decided wasn’t harmonious, I didn’t feel cheated.

Now that I’m back home the VPN is the cornerstone in my plan to cut cable television out of my life. Since I can watch BBC shows live or on demand, and since I’ve just discovered a pile of great documentaries and indie films on Netflix.ca, I don’t really feel any need to watch the paltry offerings available through Canadian broadcasters.

In effect, this move to on demand media is no different than my shift away from radio a few years ago. The only radio I listen to anymore is courtesy of the CBC Radio app on my iPhone. Local radio is completely irrelevant to me, supplanted by podcasts about topics ranging from the Mac to the media to video games to philosophy.

I’m an outlier. But it’s only a matter of time before more people take the same step. More and more people are perfectly comfortable with watching films on their laptop and short videos on their phones. Being in Canada may actually accelerate this process for many people, because Canadians are online more than anyone else in the world, and because our old media dinosaurs are hell-bent on keeping the public from watching anything they actually want to see and would rather fight tooth and nail for their obsolete business models. Canadians are savvy enough to work around these arbitrary restrictions, and one way or the other I’m sure we’ll see a dramatic decrease in cable subscriptions in the next few years.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to save money and enjoy great content. I don’t think I’ll miss cable in the least, and I’m betting soon others will join me in cutting the cord.

 

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  1. Here’s hoping that old media wises up soon and adopts new global models. As we users continue to route around barriers to receiving content, the ROI of producing that content continues to decline. There’s going to be an interim period, I think, when it’s goin to be much harder to sustain quality, non-AAA blockbuster media because it’s harder for the makers to get paid.

  2. That’s true, though I think new models will be found, and not necessarily from established sources. People are using Kickstarter.org and other alternative funding sources to create non-blockbuster material. It’s early days, but that phenomenon will continue.

  3. True, but Kickstarter won’t help for the midlist stuff, the Stargate Universes or Doctors Who of the world…

  4. Sorry Chip butl Stargate Universe got canned anyways so it’s not having to worry about any issues of funding. Many shows have talked more about using more in show product placement in lieu of missing out on all the commercial time. Cable used to be more restrictive but in many ways things are catching up with so many more good shows running almost a day too a week after original broadcast in the UK.

    I think more regular broadcast shows know they will always have issues with revenue stream and even when they offer options to watch full episodes on the site they still cram it full of silly commercials. I still recall the fun old days of seeing some of the zany commercials on the tapes I would get from Osaka, Japan. In many ways the life of advertising shorts are still very creative and wished they could keep going along with how the media changes down the road.