Tech Journalists Keep Completely Missing The Point Of Cord Cutting

from the buy-ALL-the-things! dept

It has become the laziest "hot take" in technology media. Once a month or so, a writer decides to subscribe to as many streaming video services as possible. They then proudly declare that this whole cord cutting thing (ditching traditional cable TV for streaming video) is a waste of time. Why? For whatever reason, these writers feel compelled to try and use streaming alternatives to perfectly mirror the existing, bloated cable bundle consumers have spent two decades complaining about, only to shockingly wind up disappointed by the cost (gosh, it's almost as if broadcasters dictate the pricing for both services!).

Each time one of these stories pops up (from Gizmodo to USAToday,) we note how these writers are completely missing the point. Cord cutters aren't trying to precisely mirror traditional cable bundle, they're simply looking for greater flexibility. Cord cutting provides just that, in that if you don't like sports -- for example -- you don't have to subscribe to any services that offer it. As such, "cord cutting is really expensive when I subscribe to every streaming service in the known universe" is just an odd narrative that just keeps bubbling up across various media outlets despite not really making much sense.

The latest culprit is the New York Post, which recently penned a missive declaring that "streaming TV is getting as bad as cable." Why? Again, it's apparently because when you sign up for every streaming service imaginable, it starts to get somewhat expensive:

"Home entertainment is really starting to add up. Want to watch “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Transparent,” “Game of Thrones” and “Homeland”? Prepare to drop $51 a month — minimum. And that number doesn’t even include your Internet package or basic options such as Food Network, Travel Channel and Syfy.

And just when we thought we’d reached maximum capacity, in September, CBS will resurrect “Star Trek” for a new series called “Discovery.” Fans rejoiced at the announcement — they’d been without a “Trek” series for 12 years — until they made a rude discovery of their own: The new show would only be available on the CBS All Access app. That’s $5.99 a month to basically watch one show. Absolutely nobody is signing up for the “NCIS” reruns. So now we’re at $57 a month.

So, several things. One, $57 a month is still significantly less money that what many people pay for cable. Two, writers like this ignore a number of obvious realities that can lower your costs further, including the fact that countless people share streaming service passwords (something most streaming companies don't care about because they see it as free advertising). You also need to factor in things like over the air antennas (and the rising number of solutions that let you record this content to DVR), which provide additional options for less money -- or free.

Writers like this also hysterically like to avoid so much as mentioning piracy. Too many writers bizarrely act as if you're not allowed to even acknowledge piracy exists because it's naughty. But if you're "analyzing" how much it costs for an ordinary consumer to get TV content and you're not factoring in piracy, you're missing a fairly massive part of the overall picture. It doesn't really matter if you or your publisher don't like it, or don't think people should be doing it. It's happening, it's part of the overall cost-saving picture, and it's something companies have to compete with. Yet it's never even mentioned in these reports.

That said, journalists pushing the "if I buy everything in the store it gets expensive" narrative are missing the most important point: actual consumers repeatedly say cord cutting saves them significant sums of money each and every month. And if any of these writers had actually bothered to, say, talk to actual cord cutters, they would tell them the same thing.

Every time a story like this pops up I enjoy heading over to Reddit where users quickly point out how cord cutting is saving them plenty of money. Why? Because it provides something most traditional cable providers aren't willing to: flexibility and choice. With cord cutting, the end user gets to decide how to best balance their viewing options to build a content package that works for them and their budget. That's in contrast to your cable provider, who'll consistently pay empty lip service to choice and flexibility, right before it raises both your cable bill and set top box rental fee.

Yet somehow the reality that consumers are truly saving money escapes these pearl-clutching authors. Like in this recent story at Wired pushing the same, stale narrative. One user at Reddit put their objection to these reports rather succinctly:

"I don't know why every article like this dives into recreating cable, and then laments that it's not that much cheaper than cable. He's way more concerned with watching channels than watching shows or entertainment."

Look, if you really like paying a significant sum of money for 500 channels to a company with a worse customer service rating than the IRS nobody's stopping you. In fact, if you truly need to access every shred of programming imaginable and have oodles of disposable income, cable remains your best bet. But the idea that cord cutting is somehow "failing" just because it's not good at mirroring the abysmal value presented by the traditional cable bundle makes no coherent sense. At the very least, the next time you proudly declare that cord cutting doesn't save consumers money -- perhaps talk to some actual consumers first?

Filed Under: cable, cord cutting, television

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2017 @ 9:20am

    I'm saving a lot of money cutting the cord. I've been gut now for 5 years or so. I get a lot of my TV from the Antenna, using a TIVO to record it all. Then it's Netflix which these days has a ton of content. I just finished Binge watching "The Defenders" which was good.

    These other streaming services like DirectTVNow or SlingTV, etc. are basically doing the same dumb Channel bundling. You can sign up to these things without getting ESPN for example!!! It's the same old bundles!!! You're just paying someone else for the same old thing.

    What I can't see, I can't miss, right? If I want to watch GOT on HBO, wait for the season to be over, and sign up for 1 month and Binge Watch the whole season, and anything else you want to see. It makes the 1 month subscription worth it. It's not worth $15 a month otherwise. Do the same with CBS all Access. Yet another service not even worth the $6 a month for. Wait for Discovery to be over. Seasons for shows are so short these days anyway. Then pay the $6 and binge watch. That might be worth the cost. It sure as hell isn't worth $6 a month, let along $10 a month for no commercials. Ya, you still get limited commercials paying them $6. How does Netflix run their service Commercial Free at a low cost and everyone else, forces you to pay even more money for the same honor?

    I've tried a bunch of these services for a month, and found that I just NEVER watched them. I don't have that much time to sit around the TV. Back in the OLD days of no computers. No iPads, no iPhones, etc and there was nothing else, there was TV. But people's time is taken up by so many other things these days.

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