When Analyzing Cord Cutting Options, Most TV Analysts Continue To Pretend Piracy Simply Doesn't Exist

from the giant-pink-mutant-vampire-elephant-in-the-room dept

With the arrival of services like Dish’s SlingTV, Sony’s Playstation Vue, and looming standalone offerings from HBO and Showtime, 2015 is finally the year that Internet video finally starts gaining some serious traction. As such, we’re now seeing oodles of breathless analysis focused on what this means for you and whether now is the time to cut the cord. Usually in these fluffy pieces, there’s a heavy emphasis on the fact that once you’ve subscribed to all of these streaming services, you’re probably paying the same as you already paid for traditional cable. Gosh — it’s almost as if the same people responsible for setting absurd cable TV rates are setting streaming video rates!

But there’s one recurrent theme among TV sector analysts that has always annoyed and amused the hell out of me in equal measure. Almost all of the “cord cutting” analysis I’ve read — whether it’s a local news outlet, the Associated Press or a major paper — goes out of its way to pretend that piracy doesn’t exist. As in, when discussing the options available to consumers, piracy isn’t even mentioned as a commonplace practice. Since the pay TV sector competes with piracy (even though they’ve long been loathe to admit it), that always strikes me as immensely myopic.

So it has become a sort of ritualistic entertainment for me to watch writers go miles out of their way not to acknowledge piracy for fear they might be seen as condoning it. And as streaming options increase, stories breathlessly warning consumers that they won’t save money with Internet video (if you conveniently ignore that piracy is a real thing) are simply everywhere. It’s like they’re being built on an assembly line in Topeka.

One specific case in point is a well-circulated bit of analysis over at the Wall Street Journal, where author Geoffrey A. Fowler proudly proclaims that despite recent progress in streaming options, cable TV still “beats the Internet.” To prove his point, he offers up this handy graphic explaining that you’ll still wind up paying a ton of money if you subscribe to every Internet video service under the sun:

Yes, “what’s missing” are all the things millions of people are pirating. But we can’t mention that because — why? We’ll be smitten by the gods? It’s now standard practice in the media to pretend that piracy doesn’t exist, then pretend that none of your readers are smart enough to notice your glaring omission. Seriously, even the barest mention of piracy is mysteriously absent from an ocean of similar stories, all claiming to give viewers a full accounting of the TV viewing options in 2015. There are simply countless examples of this, where authors profess to be asking the hard questions about cord cutting without mentioning the giant orange elephant standing in the corner:

“But there’s one whopping big question that nobody’s asking: Can you replace cable with streaming Internet TV and get the same experience ? and save money? After all, if you can’t make the switch without missing your favorite TV shows and saving money, then what’s the point?”

Except they can! Through piracy! One gets the sense that media outlets feel like if they so much as even acknowledge that piracy is a real thing — they’ll somehow be taken as advocates for piracy. It’s as if piracy is some kind of angry and strange Lovecraftian god, and even mentioning its name will invite unspeakable terror upon the local village. And it’s not just the media — I’ve seen countless professional firms paid millions to analyze the state of the pay TV sector similarly just pretend that piracy doesn’t exist — in large part because tracking these users can be difficult to impossible. As such, it’s best to just pretend piracy doesn’t exist and isn’t even worth trying to monitor. Nobody will notice, right?

If you were to do an honest analysis of cord cutting options in 2015, you’d note that most cord cutters are doing everything and anything to avoid skyrocketing cable rates. That may involve subscribing to Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming, but it also may include using BitTorrent and a Plex media server to pirate all of their favorite HBO and Showtime shows. I don’t advocate this behavior (did I need to say that?), but if you’re seriously going to discuss the current state of pay television (and how we can improve it) — ignoring the standard practice of millions of frustrated, potential customers strikes me as a very peculiar type of willful blindness. It’s a form of willful, collective obliviousness that only helps the cable industry pretend that piracy isn’t a useful metric in determining just how badly they’re failing to meet consumer demand.

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Comments on “When Analyzing Cord Cutting Options, Most TV Analysts Continue To Pretend Piracy Simply Doesn't Exist”

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pixelpusher220 (profile) says:


Since the media covering these stories is often legally owned by the IP owner of the media being pirated, it’s like a therapy session.

There are uncomfortable questions that get raised once you start scratching the surface.

So willful ignorance of the problem is the early stage. Denial will come next. Obviously the actual IP side is already at the lashing out stage.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What's missing

Better quality, perhaps.

Better quality when it works. My friend dumped cable and put up an antenna. He loves the quality, but every time there’s bad weather, he loses some of the stations, usually one of the big networks. When analog TV had problems, you’d get a snowy picture. When digital TV has problems, it freezes and breaks up into little colored blocks.

Honestly, it reminds me of the days of 300/1200 baud modems when there was no error correction and any line noise would cause garbled text on the screen. Then more advanced modems came along with built-in error correction and all the garbled text went away.

Now we have TV transmissions with no error correction so the least little bit of “line noise” garbles the picture.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What's missing

I cut the cord 10 years ago and still get a large variety of broadcast channels with my set-top antenna. (I do have the advantage of living in the middle of a large city, and on a hill.) Occasionally I have to move the antenna, depending on which channel I want to watch, but still, I get ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, an oddball mix of channels I’d never noticed back when I had cable, and three PBS stations (and their extra digital offerings). In HD. For free.

The WSJ author seems also to have forgotten, or conveniently overlooked, that PBS makes a lot of its content available online (including, usually, the latest episodes of its most popular primetime shows). The interface can be a bit clunky, yes, but it’s free, and you don’t have to be a financial supporter of PBS or your local station to watch it. (I am, but that’s because I like and want to support their programming, not because it’s a requirement.)

I do subscribe to Hulu Plus: Yes, paying for commercials – ugh. But they have an interesting selection of movies, and have introduced me to a lot of international TV that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. (And another thing that WSJ author forgot: I can get my “Daily Show” fix on Hulu without needing cable TV with Comedy Central. Don’t even need Hulu Plus for that.)

I also subscribe to Amazon Prime, which has some overlap with Hulu, but I’m a frequent Amazon buyer and so enjoy the two-day shipping. (And I buy things from Amazon that I would have bought elsewhere before. Clever Amazon…)

And, yes, I am aware of the… other… options in case I wanted to watch the latest episodes of whatever’s on HBO or Showtime. (I’m in no rush, though. I can wait until they come out someplace else.)

radix (profile) says:

Re: Re: What's missing

I’ve got an analog TV, and with a cheap converter box, I get some 30+ channels OTA. Most are not the type I’d watch on a daily (or even monthly) basis, but I’d say the same thing about cable.

Even on top of that, most broadcast networks have their current shows available online the day after they air (for a few weeks, at least), and all the options above include internet.

The whole analysis seems like a setup to make the marginal cost for cable seem smaller than it really is. With OTA + internet + Netflix, I pay about $50/month. No ESPN or HBO, which they seem to think is important, but if I really wanted them, I could add SlingTV and HBO Now for another $35 and get basically everything mentioned above for the lowest price.


Re: The dinosaurs totally miss the point.

There’s OTA. There’s also the fact that you simply don’t need to subscribe to every service out there. The whole point of cutting the cord is that you can avoid forced bundling of things like ESPN.

You can avoid the crap you don’t want at all and not be forced to pay for it against your will just to watch the stuff you do like.

There is a wide range of content on cable. A lot of it is just filler. Only a small portion of it is what you would call “event television”. Demand is extremely elastic depending on taste.

Some things you plain don’t care about. Other things you don’t want to help subsidize. Some things you like but not enough to go out of your way to watch them when they first air. This leaves a LOT of wiggle room and opportunity for dirt cheap subscription services like Netflix and Hulu.

drummer315 (profile) says:

Re: What's missing

Another item not being correctly analysed here is that fact that most of us have already been paying for internet access BEFORE we cut the cord! So obviously we are not correctly doing a cost comparison. My internet bill is not a replacement cost for satellite or cable. I was already paying it.

My Satellite bill had finally hit $100/month. When I called asking for a better rate – all they could talk about is reducing my service.

With respe3ct to Amazon Prime, I already had that service because my wife and I buy a lot through Amazon. Based on our purchases in 2013, we predicted it would be either a break even or an annual savings of $20-$50. The Amazon streaming then becomes a no cost bonus.

I triied Hulu Plus and killed it a month after my freebie was up. Does not add enough value to justify the cost.

We already had Netflix streaming so that also was not an add-on cost.

What did become an add-on cost of great value to us was Acorn TV on our ROKU Box. For $4.99 we get tons of British Isles, Canadian and Australian programming we did not have before.

I did spend $250 for a Channel Master DVR+, so let’s say amortized over 3 years that costs me $ 7/ month to have an OTA DVR that works similar to a TIVO, but I am not paying them anything extra each month for a programming guide.

So before cutting the cord I was paying $ 100 for Satellite, $ 8 for Netflix and $60 for broadband. Tot $168

Now we we still pay $68 for Netflix and Internet, + $5 for Acorn TV and $6 for the amortized cost of our DVR+. Now our cost is $ 79.

A savings of $ 89 / month. As I said, we had Amazon Prime before the cust but did not get it for streaming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What's missing

Here’s highway robbery for you with broadcast television: My parents have Comcast cable (I know, what a cruel thing to do to your own mother, but they’re beyond hope of learning to use a computer, so no Netflix, but bear with me).

My mother has been trying to catch up on past episodes of the NBC show, “Chicago P.D.” This is currently season 2, which is available for free via their on-demand service.

But if you want to catch up on Season 1, guess what: YOU HAVE TO PAY $24.99!

How can this even be allowed when 1) it’s a broadcast show that originally aired for free, and 2) COMCAST OWNS NBC and doesn’t NEED to make any more money off their own IP when they’re already charging an arm and a leg (and maybe a couple of internal organs) for their cable service?

I find this to be absolutely ridiculous that cable providers have the gall to charge exorbitant rates for things that aired originally for free and also things that technically they already own. Why shouldn’t NBC shows (and the like) come free with a Comcast subscription? You’re already subsidizing NBC through your cable bill, why the gently caress should they have the right to charge MORE money for something that you technically already PAY FOR because it’s part of their catalog (and which already aired for free over the air)?

Meanwhile Netflix costs $8 plus the price of our (admittedly terrible) Verizon DSL subscription. Piracy, meanwhile, costs $0 on top of the $24.99/month we pay for Internet. So, you do the math: $24.99 for a single season of a single show (that aired previously for free, as I know I’ve said multiple times already), or $24.99 for unlimited titles in DVD or BluRay quality via the Internet.

This is the model that needs to be adopted. A static, and reasonable, monthly fee (until we can solve the problem of tax-subsidized national fiber-optic Internet), with an unlimited amount of titles available to you. Pay by month or year, not by title. Is that so much to ask?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why?

they never seem to have movies I actually want to watch

That’s the studios’ fault, not Amazon’s. The I.P. holders who stick their heads so far in the sand they can see China when it comes to streaming, because they’re still trying to fight the courts to stop VHS tapes from existing.

If you mean they don’t have a lot of original material worth watching, then yeah, I agree, but give it time, it’s early. HBO had nothing but old movies and “Max Headroom” in their infancy, and now they’re the Game of Thrones Channel and much more.

Not sure if I can say the same will ever happen for their in-house publishing zoo. Yeesh.

Anonymous Coward says:

That infographic is incorrect, even discounting piracy...

Option D: See it eventually.

This is what I use. If you mosey on over to CBS’ website, you’ll find that almost all TV shows are available for viewing within two days of airing on TV. For free.

Same goes for many of the other stations. Why on earth didn’t they have a list of “free somewhat current offerings” in that infographic? I stopped pirating TV years ago, because it’s almost all available to stream for free from licensed distributors. Some sites have episodes available for a limited time, after which you need to prove you have a cable subscription or you need to sign up for one of those online subscriptions.

But all you really need to watch most shows is a DSL internet connection or faster, and knowledge of where/when the shows are being streamed for free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That infographic is incorrect, even discounting piracy...

So I guess that makes me Option E:
Internet: $45
AdBlock Plus: Free
List of streaming sites: Free

Although I admit that sometimes the free sites are a bit choppy… in which case, using VLC or HFV Downlaoder to download the stream for later viewing usually works quite well.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: That infographic is incorrect, even discounting piracy...

I’m more of an “option E” person. I’m unwilling to subscribe to more than one video service, and if a particular show I’m interested in never hits that service, I’m good with that. If it ever does, I’ll watch it then.

In short, there is no TV show or movie that is so compelling that I’m willing to go out of my way or incur additional expense just to see it. I have plenty of other things to watch/hear/do.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: That infographic is incorrect, even discounting piracy...

And Hulu (Plus?) has everything else (ABC, NBC, Fox, CW) the next day for free or at most $8.

Along with commericals and a rapidly deflating list of “supported” set-top boxes. Want to use HuluPlus with your year and a half old LG Blu-Ray player, sorry, we don’t support that stuff any more, upgrade to a modern player. Want to use a year old Vizio smart TV, sorry, that piece of junk is so ancient you need to upgrade in order to watch our service. Oh, and that week old Samsung won’t work either. (Of course, with plex and a set-top box running linux, this isn’t as much of an issue any more.)

Amazon Prime and Netflix surprisingly work on every device I own, and don’t have commercials, so I gave up on HuluPlus and haven’t looked back. If it doesn’t exist on Netflix or Amazon Prime, it will probably exist somewhere else on the internets (or it doesn’t exist.)

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: That infographic is incorrect, even discounting piracy...

I have a 20-foot HDMI cable that I string from my laptop to my TV when I’m using it, with a wireless mouse and keyboard as my remote control. An inelegant solution, and it wouldn’t work in a larger household, but it does what I need without having to pay for any sort of set-top box or smart TV. (Only downside is I can’t work on my computer and watch streaming TV at the same time… although I suppose I could if I just extended the display rather than mirroring.)

grayputer says:

Re: That infographic is incorrect, even discounting piracy...

Yes, I’m a ‘see it eventually’ person too (cut the cord a couple years ago). Netflix, HuluPlus, and Amazon (I get/need the shipping, video is a nice ‘freebie’ in my case). Then instead of being a pirate I buy DVDs of the shows I want at end of season (Game of Thrones etc.).

Net for me is/was: about a $220/mo cable bill (includes internet) + netflix ($9) + Amazon ($8) went to $70/mo internet business class + netflix ($9) + Amazon($8) + HuluPlus($8). Or about 235/mo to $95/mo for a savings of about $140/mo or $1680/yr. Even at $100/season for shows like Game of Thrones I’m saving lots of money. Eventually I’ll likely pony up $15/mo for HBO moving me to about $110/mo and save some of the DVD purchases.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I guess the biggest problem is they killed their competition early on. They have been operating from this magical place where they have the power to kill any competition they might face, and never have to worry about providing what the customer actually wants.

There is no option other that the ones we tell you, you may have. We will spend millions offering you less, while trying to punish those who refuse to accept the overpriced limited options we provide. While others just put up an antenna and get those missing channels, we will pretend that you must pay us for 400 channels of crap to get the 2 shows you want to see… if you stay home at the right times or pay a bit more for them on demand.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Karl doesn’t advocate piracy, but I do. Simply because as stated, there’s no other reasonable legal alternative.

I highly recommend paying for the content you enjoy – I do so as much as I can – but some companies refuse to give me any reasonable way to give them money. It’s been mind-boggling for a decade, and every year that these companies leave so much money on the table becomes more mind-boggling that there aren’t shareholder revolts.

So my monthly entertainment/content bill is something like this:
-TimeWarnerCable absurdly crappy internet with absurdly crappier service: $60… no $70… no $80… fuck did they raise the bill again? Hurry up and wire my street GoogleFiber.
-Spotify: $10
-Netflix: $9
-Techdirt: $5
-Patreon/Subbable support for various projects: $10-30
-Gaming: $50-100 a month for either games themselves or various in-game purchases/DLC

I’d be perfectly fine adding 1 or at most 2 more Netflix-like services if it will cover everything I’d want to view. But I’m not buying a cable tv subscription + HBO Go for 10 episodes of Game of Thrones a year. I’m not going to buy a console to have access to some Playstation or XBox exclusive content. I will pirate to make up for the gaps in reasonable services.

Brad says:

It's not just what they left out, but what they stuck in...

Internet is a sunk cost for most people. I’m willing to bet that most people who spend $130/mo for cable are already spending 40-60 bucks extra for internet on top of their bill. The graphic really should’t include the cost of the internet access when people were already paying for it.

For most people, switching involves signing up for a couple of cheaper streaming options (+$10-$20/mo) and giving up the bundling “discount” (+$10-$20/mo) you might have been getting from your local cable & internet provider.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: It's not just what they left out, but what they stuck in...

On top of this, they don’t take into account the extra benefits of the services. The Internet is not just for a TV replacement (as much as some would want it to be). It has far more value to the end user than cable. Netflix has it’s own shows and Amazon Prime has other services. Hell, Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu have the added (and vary important) benefit of being able to watch it whenever the viewer wants.

Doug says:

Re: It's not just what they left out, but what they stuck in...

Exactly. I’m an option D type, and I calculate my costs as $9 for netflix only (well, $16 because I still get DVDs a few times a month). That’s because I need my internet connection (for work) whether or not I use it to stream video or not.

$9 or $16 is well below the $85 they calculate. That’s the number for comparison.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's not just what they left out, but what they stuck in...

When I got my new subscription to Comcast, I could either get cable and internet, or I could get internet only for more money than internet and cable together. Of course I got the bundle because it was cheaper, not because I wanted the cable – though I watch it because I have it.

Frankly, I’d rather have cheap cable and then, as others have noted, just stream stuff from CBS.com and other internet providers. The day when cable is essentially valueless looms.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's not just what they left out, but what they stuck in...

Really? I’ve never actually found a rate where the internet alone options was literally cheaper than internet + cable, at least not beyond a short promotional period. Either way nobody is forcing you to hook up the TV portion.

Maybe that’s because I don’t get the minimum internet access (my house uses a ton of bandwidth between my wife and me). We ended up getting a cable/internet package because it was only slightly more expensive than just internet, and we were switching from Time Warner to Hawaii Telecom, and even with the cable our internet was cheaper than our previous bill (yay competition). Most people aren’t lucky to have two real options, let alone one that’s actually better than the other.

It’s interesting to see they’re giving out cable at a loss.

TasMot (profile) says:

They forgot a few other costs

If they are going to include the cost of the Internet, they are padding the cost. It is what is called a sunk cost. People already have it. They already pay for it. They will have it whether or not they are cord cutters. Since they want to pad costs, they forgot to add in the cost of the TV, the cost of the electricity, the sofa to sit on, the footstool, and the snacks. Oh wait, they forgot the cost of a router, some LAN cables, installation and, oh yeah, a house to keep it all out of the weather, heat and air conditioning, and a bathroom, the water bill, and so on.

Since the internet connection is already a “done deal”, then that cost should be taken out of the calculation. In that case, option A becomes $65 (which is much better than the $210 that Comcast wanted to charge me).

Option B becomes $48, Option C becomes $40, and Option D becomes $20.

Most people who are considering cord cutting already have Internet access for other reasons. The cord cutting is just making more use of something they already have, just using is some more at no additional cost.

When the cost of the Internet service is removed, those cord cutting number look very appealing, especially since most people have a TV (as opposed to a monitor) which already has a tuner built in that the cable companies bypass with their set top box, so get an antenna and use the tuner to get full uncompressed high definition over they air signals for free again (with the already paid for tuner in the TV).

Dismembered3po (profile) says:

So…these articles also incorrectly assume that people give a crap about getting “the same experience,” which basically misses the entire point of cord-cutting to begin with.

People cut because they DO NOT WANT CABLE EXPERIENCE.

They also conveniently ignore another elephant:

…I get darn near 30 live channels – including many of the Ines listed as “missing” in the chart above – for free, without breaking any laws…with a $30 set of rabbit ears.

Groaker (profile) says:

Even with ala carte payment, the cord cutting option is cheaper

Not just cheaper, but superior. TWC has a BBC channel which plays the same limited menu over and over. Acorn, the cord cutters BBC, costs me 2.99/M with about 20x the selection of TWC. I have Amazon Prime anyway because I live in an exurban area, and have limited access to items I need. Netflix costs about $8. So I have more TV than I care to watch for $11/ month. No commercials, and a decent turnover. With the net, the total is about $68, while cable without premium channels would run in the low $200s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Excluding pirating content seems to have been done for two main reasons. First, they seem to be focusing only on legal options. Second, including it would undercut their argument that they are presenting the only options available, and that there is not a substantially cheaper alternative out there.

I honestly don’t care if the newspapers and other media outlets include pirating content in their charts, but the content providers will eventually have to if they want to maximize their revenue potential, because excluding it from consideration skews the cost options and results in service offerings that are just too expensive to be competitive. I guess they all saw their shadows when they peeked out of their holes, so they still refuse to fully acknowledge the complete landscape of options they are competing against.

Christenson says:

Option F: I don't give a ......

I have enough FREE internet content to keep me busy…I forgot to hook up my new TV at the digital transition to over-the-air or cable…and have only ever played DVDs on it.

So, cable is only relevant to the degree they provide internet, and do it better than the competition.

Live? The most important live stuff is the weather…if I really need to watch the game, well, there are lots of sports bars around…and restaurants with multiple games showing, too!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Option F: I don't give a ......

If you think the most important live TV is weather… let me introduce you to wunderground.com — you can even get it as a widget for most modern “Smart” TVs.

If I want “Live” there’s twitter feeds, streaming news services and actually going outside.

Really, the only thing that isn’t available outside cable now is ESPN. Considering ESPN doesn’t tend to even cover the games/sports I enjoy — especially not when I want to watch them, that’s no great loss to me. I could pay the same amount per month to get front row seats in junior games that it costs to get cable for the sole purpose of watching ESPN. And the junior games are MUCH more exciting than professional versions of the same sports.

sharp as a marble says:

here is the problem I currently have with most legal services that offer “current season” tv. even if I pay I often cannot just sit and watch every one of their shows. different production companies have different contracts for how their content can be sent. so even if you have cbs you cannot watch some of their shows. until the paid services offer a netflixlike ease of viewing I am gonna stick with pirate streaming sites.

Anonymous Coward says:

There's another option

Stop watching. Has anybody looked at what’s on TLC or Discovery or the History channel or A&E or Bravo these days? It’s all reality show crap: it’s so bad that I’ve often thought it would amusing to play a game: “Reality Show Title: real or fake?”

The networks aren’t any better. Cop shows, medical shows, spy shows, soap operas and absolutely dreadful news coverage. The Weather Channel is worthless. PBS begs for money or puts frauds like Dr Oz and Deepak Chopra whoever on the air. About the only operation that turns out content I’m interested in is ESPN.

We pay for about a hundred channels of cable and watch 15 in a year. Comcast knows this, which is why they won’t let us have a la carte packages. Well, Comcast, I have news for you: we bought an antenna. And we upgraded the speed of our (non-Comcast) Internet connection. We’re figuring out how to make you obsolete, so if you don’t start selling us what we want (and ONLY what we want) at a sane price, then we’re going to be gone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There's another option

I don’t actually have a TV any more, just a computer. I’ve stopped watching “tv” pretty much completely. The shows are “meh” at best; I prefer a book or a computer game.

The one thing I had a problem letting go of was the news, but have you watched the news recently? The news networks are little more than propaganda platforms, that a 6 year old can see through, mixed with useless gossip. If you can watch Fox for more than 1 minute without having your IQ drop 40 points, you are a better man than I.

Oh, the news lets me know when something blows the fuck up alright, but do they ever truly get to the point of why it blew the fuck up? No… they just offer regurgitated statements that end up with “because terrorism” and I just got fed up with it.

TV can go fuck itself. All of it.

AH2014 (profile) says:

So internet is unnecessary if I have cable?

It’s funny how all these studies show that I have to weigh my internet price against my cable price, as if somehow I wouldn’t bother to pay for internet if I have cable TV. This is just plain ridiculous.

Add to that the OTA broadcast (I get over 100 channels, out of which I watch about 5) and the cost equation changes radically.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Reading comprehension 101: “but it also may include using BitTorrent and a Plex media server to pirate all of their favorite HBO and Showtime shows.

Note the key word, “and.” The part before the “and,” “BitTorrent” is the source of the content. The part after the “and,” “Plex media server” is the method used to view the content. At no point did the author indicate that media servers were used to pirate the content itself, and even the most basic understanding of the terms used would make this obvious.

It’s sort of like saying he used a hose and a bucket to wash his car, and then you yelling “Hey! You can’t get water from a bucket! It’s up to a human to put water in it first!”

Sigh, seconded.

Joseph Ratliff (profile) says:

One more cost I haven't seen discussed...

Every one of these “analysis” of cable costs and such seem to forget to analyze the “true” cost of whatever Internet provider you’re paying, and what you can “use them for.”

For example, if I pay $50 per month to Comcast for Cable TV access, AND pay $50 per month to them for Internet access … I essentially have a “double cost”.

If I combine those two access costs instead into the same $50 per month Internet cost by itself, I’ve already saved $50 per month, PLUS I also get Internet access to do other things on the ‘net (email etc…) within that same cost.

So “actual cable usage” doesn’t cost the full $50 per month of the internet access charge at all, it would depend on how much time I’m actually using my Internet access to watch TV.

If I only use my Internet access to watch TV for 25% of my usage of my total Internet access cost (most likely less than that) … then my adjusted cable cost is actually only $12.50 per month, adjusted for “actual usage time,” and not the full $50 per month as most of these comparisons state.

ECA (profile) says:


Option E..
replace Cable and sat with local broadcast..

Cost $60-100 1 time fee..
I use broadcast tv..I get 4 PBS channels..
How do I loose PBS on almost all of these options?
And Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC are generally local broadcast.

And all these other options dont even consider, that you DONT WANT the net.
red box on the corner, or near by.
A cellphone to order from other services.
That graph is very limited and its trying to confuse things..there are MANY other options.

Mounted antenna, high enough to see over most buildings in area..$30-50
Signal booster for signals to 50 miles…$50
Ask grandpa about setting it up..

And I will bet that Many city dwellers can get 40+ channels..FREEE!

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:

Re: OMG..

I agree on the what-is-this-talking-about; even without an investment beyond a cheap HD antenna, I still get at least one of each of the major broadcast networks, including PBS, and DVRs still exist.

I’m also confused by how there’s a roughly one-third drop in price between the high-end option and the low-end option and this is seen as somehow meaningless. Like I wouldn’t enjoy an extra $480/year in my life.

Of course, I have the anime fan’s problem of many shows being picked up for streaming in the U.S., often simulcast with the Japanese release, with no availability on broadcast or cable. And half of them won’t even see a physical media release; if I want a copy to keep, I need to pirate a copy from the streaming service I’m already paying for because there is literally no other option (and unlike broadcast/cable, I can’t legally tape it).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: OMG..

Redbox is terrible, though, unless one is a Marvel or Will Ferrell junkie (in which case, one is most likely an actual junkie). Its choices are limited to the crap that’s been released in the past year or so. There’s only so much space in the vending machine; hence it doesn’t suit everyone’s tastes, because you can’t Redbox North By Northwest.

Now, if they could upgrade their machines to, say, having a hard drive with DVD .isos on it that burns you any disc you want, 1910s-present, at a kiosk for $1-$5, then I’d consider it.

But for that I may as well go to my local library. Sadly, even they don’t always have what I’m looking to watch at that particular moment.

Pete says:

They apparently missed OTA

From a quick read of the article they apparently completely missed OTA. For less than 100 dollars you can get a good attic mounted antenna and an amplifier that will get you all major networks plus a bunch of extras as long as you are within 40-50 miles of a major city.

Most people already pay for broadband – but even with 60 bucks there we are talking 68 bucks for broadband and netflix.

I also have amazon – but I’ve had it for the shipping LONG before I had it for video

I completely agree they are ignoring piracy – but OTA seems an even bigger oversight. Heck – my OTA setup was under 100 bucks and I’m 40 miles out… if you live in or much closer to a city you can even use rabbit ears

Anonymous Coward says:

One thing I haven’t seen discussed yet about cord-cutting, that is of concern to me, is basically the “service level” of the “cord-cut” content vs. the “cable” content.

(I say “cable” instead of cable, because I have AT&T U-Verse, which comes in over my internet IP connection, not over “coax cable”)

IOW, when my “cable” goes down, I can get AT&T to troubleshoot the problem until it is fixed. I haven’t had problems very often but over the years I’ve had a problem here and there. The most recent was “major”, in that they replaced the “set top box / DVR”, and re-did the “connections” on the outside “box” and did more stuff at the “CO”; until it was finally fixed.

My concern is that when I have problems with “cord-cut’ content, I have no one to call. AT&T would just put the blame down the line (“it’s not our network it’s theirs – go call them”) and each and every provider in that chain I fear would do the same finger-pointing at each other. I fear a big circle-jerk of runaround.

I’d really like to see press coverage of this potential concern on TechDirt or ARS or DSL Reports, and until I do, I am basically fearful of cutting my cord; although I would certainly welcome the potential savings..

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Have you had so many problems that this is a real concern?

In any case, I don’t think the situation is as bad as you fear. In essence, nothing changes in terms of how you get help: you contact the company whose service is failing. The only difference is that you’re being serviced by multiple companies.

So, if your internet service goes out, you call your ISP. If your internet service is working, but your Netflix goes out, you contact Netflix. And so forth.

Personally, I just assume that customer support is always awful regardless of the company, and avoid calling them unless I’m desperate anyway, so I can count the number of support calls I’ve made in my life on both hands. The last time was with Netflix. The Netflix viewer kept telling me the service wasn’t reachable. I confirmed I had internet access, checked the various “is it down” sites to see if there was a widespread Netflix outage (there wasn’t), then followed the support procedure on the Netflix site. Their tech support had me working again in about five minutes.

No problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But a flawed retention model. Maybe it’s the studios’ fault for giving Netflix a limited-time airing license, but I see no reason why titles should have to “disappear” from the service after a period of time.

The elephant in the room for all these services is the I.P. holders’ hoarding of licensing agreements. It may as well be labeled a cockroach in the room because it refuses to die.

Whoever says:

Cable pricing in comparisons

The prices quoted for cable probably don’t include all the fees, taxes, equipment rental that are not charged on the streaming services. In other words, the price comparisons are bogus.

Other claims in the article are misleading — the claim that you need Apple TV for HBO Now: but that’s only true if you can’t wait 3 months for the service. Failing to mention that fact shows (IMHO) an intent to deceive by the author.

Rekrul says:

At the risk of alienating others, I’ll admit that I’m one of those dirty pirates. I actually still have a cable subscription, but I don’t watch it. At the moment, there’s only one box in the house and it’s used by the guy I’m renting a room to. He gives me $34 toward the cable portion of the bill. It’s actually double that, because that was just his half of the TV portion of the bill, but if I ask him to pay the whole thing (TV) he’ll refuse and tell me to just cancel it. If I do that, my internet access goes from a grandfathered $60 a month to $115. So it’s actually cheaper to keep TV as part of the package than to cancel it, and getting half the TV cost is better than paying it all myself.

In any case, I download all the shows I want to watch. A couple hours after the shows air, they’re up on the net. By downloading them, I can watch them at my leisure, ad-free and keep permanent copies of them. It used to be that if you missed a show, you had to try and find someone who recorded a copy of it. Now I no longer worry about missing an episode because I know I can get it off the net.

Of course not every show is available. There have been several episodes of late night talk shows I’ve wanted to see, but nobody bothered to upload them. Also, shows on lesser-known channels are much harder to find. I watched the first season of the show Level Up, but haven’t had a lot of luck finding the second season. It’s on Amazon, but I’d only consider paying for it if I knew I could save permanent copies of the episodes.

It’s less distracting not having the TV on all the time and since I don’t care for sports and never really watched the news, I don’t really miss it. Downloading the shows is actually faster and more convenient than sitting in front of the TV, or dealing with the limited interface (not to mention the cost) of a DVR.

Note: I download the shows from non-P2P sources like cyberlockers, newsgroups, etc. I’m not saying this makes it right, just that I’m not distributing the files to others so I can’t be accused of committing “commercial” level piracy. I download the shows to watch myself and to add to my collection.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“It’s on Amazon, but I’d only consider paying for it if I knew I could save permanent copies of the episodes.”

If only the content companies could read this and understand what it means. This is one of the biggest reasons why their crusade against piracy is meaningless. Pay attention: Piracy offers a product that is not available at all through legal channels.

You cannot call DRM-laden and/or streaming video the same product as an HD .avi file. The video file can be converted for offline play on virtually any device and can be safely stored without worrying that the product you bought is going to vanish into thin air because a company went out of business or otherwise decided to pull your content. The value of the two things is not equivalent.

If content was available at a reasonable price and in the same form (DRM free, local, and without release windows) as pirated content I would likely be much more sympathetic to publishers worrying about piracy. Also, I’d probably be broke, because I’d buy that in a heartbeat (especially if they offered a download subscription model, which would ironically lower their overall bandwidth requirements).

Of course, if they did this, piracy would virtually disappear anyway. Too bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

And terrestrial TV?

The article focuses too much on piracy when yoy get more than 30 channels for free via digital terrestrial TV.

That’s HD and all you need is a digital antenna and receiver for less than $50.

And yes, that includes all the big networks.

Where does this infographic get its ‘facts’ from?

There is no place in America where you do not get ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox for free in HD.

Anonymous Coward says:

So… this weekend, my fiancee turned me on to ‘Broad City’. The show is pretty awesome, I’m hooked. And I’ll be pulling it down from teh torrentz to get caught up.

I don’t have cable, but she does have a paid Hulu Plus account. Here’s the thing about Hulu Plus: you pay for it, *and* it shows you ads. This isn’t an unacceptable thing unto itself, but it shows you THE SAME FOUR FUCKING ADS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER!!!!!!!!

Do you know the G-force rating that they drop test an Amazon Kindle tablet to??? Because I sure do! 1000 G’s. That’s a lot of G’s! Twice the crash resiliency of an Apple iPad. I saw that commercial at least twice per episode, EVERY EPISODE for an entire day’s worth of binge watching! Here’s the thing: I’M STILL NOT FUCKING BUYING ONE!!!!!


I’m off to grab all of ‘Broad City’ season one off of teh torrentz now…

surfer (profile) says:

a pirate's perspective..

I dont comment here often, and obviously, when I do its from Hong Kong, or China, or Belarus, Japan, Russia, Ukraine and a million other TOR exit nodes built into my VPN client. Event techdirt sometimes asks me captcha thinking I am not human, which is great. I feel that it is of nobody’s business who/where/or what I am. Suffice it to say, I knew about the Snowden highlights long before they were public, and I like my privacy.

Nor do I post here often, in respect for the quality journalism Tim, Mike and Glyn without feeding the trolls here that I am in any associated with their ideals or ‘agenda’.

I am considered a pirate, fair enough. But to read article after article of the most inane, useless prattling of a dead industry, its mindboggling.

Here’s how a dedicated ‘pirate’ works. Well above 30+, double docterate in Computer Science and Engineering, have written software for the better part of 2 decades for banking, finance, mortgate, human resources and health care. got a nice client list and resume, making big 6 zeros for the last 10 years.

this is how we do it.
Scene: person/group/software captures broadcast of x show in SD, HD720p and HD1080p formats. automation of timing markers by broadcast identify the commercial start/end and software simply removes them, remuxes to our format of choice, typically matroska. this is all automated.

Distribution: x show, now encapsulated, sometimes including regional subs,etc. are now released to bittorrent, freenet, TOR, iirc and usenet. this is all automated.

Indexing: many indexing sites are now private and are not scraped by google or other web bot, so infringing content is never identified. Many of these indexing tools have apis, which allow other software to interact on unknown, unwatched, secure ports. The api allows other software to scan the index for defined filters/shows/episodes/seasons, u name it. there is a HUGE world of software developed in the vacuum that eases the automation process immensely.

apis: tools like sickbeard, couchpotato and sabnzbd+ make it easy to configure tv shows and movies to be automatically identified and downloaded using SSL or other heavily encrypted method. typically the ‘base’ download machine is already behind a many hop VPN or using a TOR exit node. this eliminates threats like deep packet inspection, view the garbage, feel free. this is also automated.

archiving: the apis are so versatile they easily rename, archive and keep watch for new identified movies/tv shows, this too is all automated. the big cost is storage. 4tb of quality drive is around 300usd.

so, after 10 years of this process, ive accumulated over 123 of the top 100 shows, ever, to include ireland, england, australia, new zealand and canada, to be able to watch, at my convenience.

to compare to the price chart above, ill outline my overhead to compare to what cable offers;

TV shows currently ‘watching’;
The Americans
Bering Sea Gold
Better Call Saul
Black Sails
Falling Skies*
The Flash
Game of Thrones
Marvel Agents of SHIELD
Ray Donovan
The Walking Dead
Star Trek TOS*
(* no longer active, but that doesnt mean I cannot find them)

every time a new ‘episode’ is available for watched, its automatically downloaded, washed, pressed and folded for viewing, this is all automated.

internet 100usd/mo
VPN 10usd/mo
private indexing access 6/mo
usenet access 40/mo
hardware 100/mo

so, my monthly out of pocket is 256usd/mo that includes internet. but with that, i get the shows I want to watch, when I want to watch them, in the format I want to see, AND i have a copy to watch someday when i want in the future.

Sure, not everyone has 40tb to mess with, but its been an accumulative game that while the mafiaa refuses to compromise, incredible tools have filled customer demand.

cutting cords you say? ive not seen a broadcast commercial since the live broadcast of NFL SuperBowl, otherwise, its been close to 14 years. I dont do commercials, the network got paid by the advertiser, some of the shows I gather were already paid for, others like Game of Thrones made millions selling the broadcast rights, so everybody got paid, nobody lost money, and ‘expected’ income is bullshit, sure, i had an expected income of 1.2m last year, but i cant file that on my taxes, or sue the FCC because I cannot fuck clients anymore.

bottom line is, if they offered what I want, when I want for the 256usd/mo, I would STILL not switch, let the fuckers burn.

— Free Peter Sunde

James (profile) says:

Why add internet cost?

It also seems strange to me to add the cost of broadband itself into the amount you will be paying.

Most, if not all, people who will use streaming services already have broadband. There would be very few who now specifically get the internet because streaming services are available.

The cost of internet on the infographic makes up a majority of the cost in each case.

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