Vox Joins Growing Chorus Of Outlets Weirdly Crapping On Cord Cutting

from the cheaper,-more-varied-options-really-suck dept

For a few years now there’s been a lazy trend among reporters analyzing “cord cutting,” or the practice of leaving legacy cable TV for streaming alternatives. Usually the narrative goes something like this “cord cutting is (stupid/failing/irrelevant/on the ropes) because users need to subscribe to multiple streaming video services to get the same amount of content they used to get with cable.” Despite these stories popping up pretty much constantly these reports miss a few key points, the biggest being that nobody wants to duplicate the 300 channels of bullshit that comprises the traditional cable bundle.

Gizmodo recently ran one such article where the author was shocked and outraged after he discovered that subscribing to four different streaming services cost him a measly forty-seven bucks, proof positive in the author’s estimation that cord cutting “isn’t a bargain any more.” And while Reddit users were quick to point out how cord cutting saves them significant cash every month, this narrative never seems to die. Case in point is Vox, which appears to have piggybacked on the Gizmodo report with a similar story proclaiming that “cord cutting is bound to fail”:

“Recently, Gizmodo ran the numbers and concluded that if you subscribed to every streaming service collecting most of the TV shows and movies you?d likely want to see (and thus excluding niche services like horror-centric Shudder or anime-centric Crunchyroll or etc., etc., etc.), your monthly bill would be more expensive than an average cable bill on its cheapest tier.”

Again though, Gizmodo didn’t “run any numbers.” The author just subscribed to HBO Now, CBS All Access, Netflix and Hulu and thought (incorrectly, if you ask actual cord cutters) that the $47 total was incredibly expensive. Analysts oddly forget that the same companies setting licensing rates for traditional cable also set the licensing rates for streaming alternatives. As such, pricing for both is probably going to be higher than anybody would like, and that’s why Hulu, Amazon and Netflix are feverishly developing original content.

But the fact remains that streaming alternatives offer something cable refuses to: more flexibility at a lower price point. Vox’s central thesis is that because cable providers have all the leverage in negotiations with broadcasters, they can strike much better deals than streaming video providers, offering their own dirt-cheap bundles of streaming packages:

“So there?s going to be a lot of demand for some form of bundling ? of an option to subscribe to a bunch of streaming services, both mainstream and niche together ? in packages that will be slightly more affordable than ordering each service a la carte. And when it comes to bundling, the cable companies know it better than anybody else.”

But because the cable industry can do this doesn’t mean they will do this. Yes, your cable provider could offer cheap bundles of streaming services. But this would cannibalize their existing legacy TV cash cow subscriber base, and the sector has made it abundantly clear it simply refuses to seriously compete on price. Instead, industry executives would rather pretend that cord cutting isn’t a real problem, and defections will cease once Millennials have more babies. As a result the closest we’ve seen to price competition are skinny bundles that give the illusion of value, but saddle users with hidden fees.

If there’s one thing the Vox report gets right, it’s that consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with and confused by exclusive, temporary licensing and vanishing streaming catalogs. But that brings us to something all of these analysts and reports willfully, hysterically ignore: piracy. You’ll note that none of the “cord cutting is dying” articles ever acknowledge that piracy exists as an option for the consumer frustrated by high prices, poor service or confusing exclusivity arrangements. It’s as if these authors are not formally allowed to acknowledge piracy’s existence by their editors because it’s naughty.

But as this website has noted repeatedly, piracy is a competitor. Because you don’t like that fact doesn’t make it less true. The reality is that if streaming begins to fail the consumer as a cheaper, more flexible alternative to cable, the last place many of these customers will be headed is back to cable. Instead, countless millions will simply hide behind a VPN and head back to piracy, a shame given the progress we’ve collectively made in dragging many of these broadcasters, kicking and screaming, into the modern age.

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Comments on “Vox Joins Growing Chorus Of Outlets Weirdly Crapping On Cord Cutting”

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Peter (profile) says:

Re: Way better entertainment value

With most streaming services, you also get your entertainment commercial-free, another point the reviewers tend to leave out.

On paper, their skinny bundle may look like a bargain, but 30-40% of that bundle is advertising. Cable is simply unwatchable.

In addition to streaming staples like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, there’s a ton of free content to be found, all of it playable through a streaming device to your TV.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I had Amazon Prime for 2nd day shipping and Netflix before I cut the cord. I still have them. So I don’t consider them a extra cost. My $170 I had a number of years ago with no premium channels and much slower internet was a complete rip-off.

I cut the cord for years. When I got my house I mounted up a Antenna. The only one I see anywhere around me!!! That’s how I get most of my TV and it costs me nothing per month. I got a Tivo Roamio on sale for $299 that included Lifetime service, a couple Tivo Mini’s so I can Record up to 4 programs at once and watch from One Tivo to another Tivo. Now with Commercial Skip, it’s even better. One button push and I skip them all. That’s more then paid for it’s self in a short time.

This last time when my Internet only service expired after the year, Comcast jacked my rates up, it was actually cheap to get a bundle with a few basic cable channels, mostly local and a cheap, plain cable box, plus HBO and their StreamPix whatever movie streaming thing, then to just get Internet Only. That’s how hard they’re pushing TV services onto people to keep them from cutting the cord. The cable Box I don’t use. it’s not plugged in. I’d have to run new cable for it into my house to use it. Why? I just keep using the antenna. Better anyway.

HBO I watch on my AppleTV or ROKU boxes with HBOGo app. For the RARE times I even turn it on. Comcast being Comcast, won’t allow the HBOGo App on Tivo to work!!! I guess they have a stick up their butt at TIVO. You could pay HBO directly and use their HBO Now App instead, but I’m in the bundle deal. I’m sure they count me now as not a cord cutter then though I am. It’s their dumb tricks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some of the streaming service used by cord cutters are terrible. Many of them show commercials that you can’t skip and sometimes they entirely disable the fast forward and reverse buttons.

Even relatively good services like MLB still have blackout rules so that if the local game is televised, you can’t watch it in the app.

Someday you might be able to watch TV the way you want without a cable subscription, but for me that day isn’t here yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I would be OK with streaming commercials if they limited it to the same amount of commercials per broadcast show (so max of ~15 min for a one hour show), did not repeat commercials and offered the shows for free with no cable subscription.

So far streaming services fail miserably at all of that. Too many show the same limited set of repeating commercials (one time watching ABC streaming every commercial break was the same set of six commercials) and normally run more commercials than if I watched it live on TV. When trying to watch an that ABC show it took well over an hour to watch because of the extra commercials they ran. It was an abysmal experience. I completely get why people try to find alternative methods to watch the show.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why I cut the cord

1. No commercials (never Hulu, ever)
2. Less crap (there will always be crap)
3. Generally able to find content I want, even if I have to wait a while for certain shows
4. If I no longer like the programming, I can vote with my wallet

The only thing I wish would happen is Turner Classic Movies becoming a channel on Roku.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Why I cut the cord

I tried HULU twice at different times with a free Month of service. The last time I couldn’t take it. I watched 1 program in that 1 month period. At the time it was nothing but 2 Broke Girls Commercials. 4 of the same thing in a row over and over again at every commercial break, which seems like worse then normal TV. Why would anyone in their right mind PAY for this??? It wasn’t worth it. It should be FREE.

I’m not going to pay them $13 to remove most of them commercials. Still not worth it. It’s cheaper for Netflix and Amazon and they’re commercial free. HULU is owned by Comcast and others so of course it stinks!!!

I always hear these stories, where they say it costs more, because you cut the cord and then sign up to all these streaming services. Who does that? Why would you cut the cord if you were going to do that?

Between my Antenna and Mostly Netflix, and PLEX with me ripping all my Movie discs, I already have to much content to watch and not enough time. I have no need for HULU or SlingBox. Hell I’m paying for HBO, or really they practically gave it to me and I don’t even watch that.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ya, I’m getting ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, CW all in HD and 5.1 surround sound. Plus other channels like AntennaTV, MeTV, etc where I can watch classic TV shows, and what now. There’s so much legally FREE content to watch with a antenna.

Just over a year ago when I switched from Media Center for my TV DVR Recording to the Tivo Roamio I have now. They had a deal going, $299 for the Box with Lifetime Service. So NO monthly fee’s. I removed the 500 gig HDD, and Popped in a WD Green 3TB drive. The largest size you can go without having to do anything with the HDD to make it work. I can record up to 4 programs at once. With my Tivo Mini’s, I can start watching in the family room and finish in the bedroom. With their Streaming Box, I can watch on my Windows PC or on my iOS devices, even away from Home. it costs me ZERO per month!!!

That’s where I get most of my content. With the new Commercial Skip. Many programs in the Prime Time area and channels have commercial Skip. 1 green button press, and I skip it all for that break. No having to FF through them. It’s just BAM!!!

Antenna is never talked about. There is no one around me that has a Antenna on their roof in my neighborhood. I’d be on my roof, looking around and thinking SUCKERS!!!!

I went and ordered a nice large directional antenna from Amazon. Got a MAST for it and mounted it up and run all new cable around my house. One of the things I did besides wiring my house with Cat6 cable and ending up in my small closet in the middle of my house, connected to my managed 24 Port Gigabit switch.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is also the option to share the accounts with friends and family. I share Netflix, Spotify with my brother. My sister who loves cable gives me access to ESPN. And since over the air tv sucks in my area due to hills, I use other “methods” for the rest. Also, I started watching free news shows from NHK World, CBS on my Amazon FireTV. Don’t really miss much since cutting. With SlingTV now allowing multiple streams, I could also use that and share the account if I want to, but I don’t like broadcast tv compare to streaming on demand.

jsn (profile) says:

Vox partially owned by Comcast

I stopped paying any attention to VOX shortly after Comcast ponied up a sizable $200m investment to increase their holdings in the site. It wasn’t long after that that Vox did a story that read like a fawning love letter to Comcast, suggesting that they are fabulous deal. I saw the story on Facebook and many people in the comments there were rightly pointing out that right below that article were other articles calling attention to the now cozy relationship Vox has with Comcast via the $200m investment. The Vox article in question made no mention of their relationship with Comcast.

So, it is little surprise to me that Vox continues to pull bullshit such as this. They are content to suck at Comcast’s teat and won’t be doing anything remotely close to suggesting how people can ditch overpriced cable TV.

geddy2112 (profile) says:

Re: Vox partially owned by Comcast

this is the only insightful comment on this whole story. why does every cord-cutting article on this sight turn into a complete dismissal of the point of the article and turn into a "this is what I do….." comment-a-thon…???? obviously this story is about major websites being bribed by Comcast to rebuff the cord-cutting phenomena…not how do YOU cord cut?….every article….every time….pavlovian sheep…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Vox partially owned by Comcast

“why does every cord-cutting article on this sight turn into a complete dismissal of the point of the article and turn into a ‘this is what I do…..’ comment-a-thon…????”

Not every cord-cutting article on this site does this, and the comments you so casually dismiss are not dismissive of what you blithely cast as the “point of the article” (there could be two or even more points).

The comments to which you object offer additional clarification of the dishonesty of Vox, Comcast, et al., by demonstrating real, active solutions that are not covered by the paid propagandists of the cable industry. Not everyone else reading these articles is the uber-educated but narrow jade that you are.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Vox partially owned by Comcast

I cut the cord, and then when my time was up and needed a new deal, I was forced into a bundle deal getting some local channels and HBO. That was CHEAPER then Internet Only!!!

So look, I’m no longer a cord cutter to them. Even though I don’t use their Box, or watch their TV channels. Hell I’ve hardly turned on HBO using a HBOGo app. I’m still using the Antenna. Still recording onto my TIVO. They’re doing all they can to keep people on the TV service no matter what. This is what Comcast as resorted to.

Ya, they never seem to talk about people cutting the cord and moving to a Antenna. Just signing up for every streaming plan, adding the total together and saying, see it’s more expensive. You’re not saving any money!!!! What a load of crap.

Dave Cortright says:

Don't forget YouTube and the channel's own site!

I was considering getting HBO Now for John Oliver, but they arer putting his main stories up on YouTube every week. Plus they have web extras. I pay the $10/month for YouTube Red which removes the ads (and gets me access to offline and background playback on my mobile devices, as well as the Google Play music library; it’s a great deal IMHO), which is cheaper than NOW and gets me access to a lot more stuff. Granted I don’t have things like the Sopranos or GoT, but then I don’t need those either.

Ala carte won’t stop at the channel. I also pay for individual shows now and I’m much happier for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

"...piracy is a competitor..."

My metro (as of today) reveals 92 over-the-air (OTA) HD channels, of which I filter 70, as being of no interest due to language, e.g., Spanish and Korean, or lack of interest, e.g., home shopping and religious. The remaining 22 give me all I could ever want of local and broadcast network news, major network sports (if I gave a damn), and series (if I was willing to submit to their scheduling – usually NOT).

Kodi with Exodus handles everything else and provides the fully flexible scheduling, i.e., whatever I want and whenever I want it, unavailable via OTA. Additionally, given how I employ Kodi, I receive no ads and have access to more content than any cable package or combo of online services.

I have paid all I will ever do. I have been educated by sites such a TD to appreciate that I have paid enough “piracy surcharges” when purchasing content, devices, and storage media over the course of four+ decades of buying that I need never feel that I am “pirating” anything – I have fully (over-)prepaid for everything I will consume from now ’til I die.

Beyond my broadband access fees, my monthly cost for content is $0. To quote some very wise men, “If you can’t compete with zero…”

David (profile) says:

Our numbers are fine.

I backed Comcast down to internet only, while preying that Google will actually still deliver in Portland.

My wife wanted something so we added DishTV. She was able to get the package she wanted. While it has some cruft it is more inline with her wishes than Comcast managed (unless you paid for everything). The total for the both services is still $50 less than the price I was paying.

While not traditional cord cutting it comes down to the fact that Comcast was so expensive they lost me as a TV customer. Correct, I no longer watch any TV. I have considered Netflix but have yet to try it.

Anonymous Coward says:

A year and a half ago I dropped my $150 cable package (Cox Contour full home DVR) the tech didn’t work right on it most of the time. We had Netflix already so we added Hulu and Kodi with plugins for things we couldn’t watch on Hulu/Netflix. We use OTA too for morning news, etc. The only thing I missed from cable was watching my local baseball games (Fox Sports channel) so I’d stream them using Kodi which meant at least half the time it would be the other team’s announcers with not so great quality. Then I discovered the Sling Blue TV plan. $25 a mo and I could watch good quality streams of local channels. My wife loves Sling because it’s more like surfing channels on cable TV. Being able to watch shows we like at East Coast times live on AMC, FX, etc. on Pacific time is nice. The commercials are acceptable to me at that point.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Real Time.

Well, I think the key issue is real-time. You’re paying for real-time video, and you need to know whether you want it that badly. Say, notionally, fifty dollars a month. That is six hundred a year, and three thousand in five years. If you take three thousand dollars to Edward R. Hamilton’s video section, you can pretty well buy the store for that sum. I got about four hundred movies on DVD’s for about a hundred dollars. You are talking about so many movies that you won’t have time to watch them all. Hamilton’s has TV series too, though not quite as attractively priced. And then, of course, if you want something particular, there’s Amazon. You’ find all kinds of things you never heard of, the same as browsing a used bookstore. Is there any good reason that you can’t watch something that was filmed fifty years ago? Are this year’s television shows really better than last year’s television shows?

You get your news by the written word, which, nowadays means the internet. Television news is inevitably superficial.

Sports, I don’t know about. I don’t watch them myself.

The cult of newness, as interpreted by the television industry, is in practice a demand that everyone should watch the same thing as everyone else, at the same time. read the same thing as everyone else, what little they do read; listen to the same thing as everyone else, etc. Do you really want to be a robotic clone?

That One Guy (profile) says:

What price, convenience?

Even if the prices were the same streaming services would still have a significant perk that standard cable doesn’t:

The ability to watch what you want, when you want.

Instead of sitting down and hoping that there’s something interesting on and that you haven’t missed out on too much of it streaming services allow you to watch anything in the catalog they offer, at any time, even allowing you to pause and do something else for a while without having to worry about missing anything.

Convincing people to drop that and go back to the ‘I hope there’s something decent on’ of ‘standard’ cable is a hard sell to put it mildly, and unfortunately for the cable companies more and more people are starting with ‘Watch whatever, at any time’-streaming as the default.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: "We're getting that money whether you like it or not."

I doubt my ISP will try to overcharge for the internet costs. It’s just ISP, landlines and mobile phone, there’s no cable tv or any content involved. They actually have partnerships with streaming services that give me discounts and exemption from the caps on the mobile connections but that’s as far as they go. I do hope they stay that way.

Groaker (profile) says:

Just for one item, try looking at costs for other VOIP companies, and the services they provide. ISPs typically charge $30-40 per month for minimal service in the US with three abilities such as voice mail. Private VOIP companies typically charge between $5-25, and offer a wide variety of additional services free, and wider geographical calling areas without charge.

Depending on who you read, US internet service falls between 15th to 39th for speed and cost. Many nations are 10x faster, and still cost less.

Peter (profile) says:

Here's another point that gets missed

Another point lazy reporters miss is that most paid streaming services are commercial free. What sort of a bargain is cable when you’re paying well over $100 a month after equipment rentals, the bulk of your content is garbage, and 30-40% of that crappy content is in the form of commercials?

I’ve never seen an all night infomercial marathon on Netflix, or had my Amazon Prime viewing interrupted by weird and annoying plugs for Cialis.

So comparing cable to streaming on price alone is foolish and dishonest. With streaming content, you’re getting a lot more for your money.

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