With relatively rare exception, I turn on my television and my DirecTV box every night to see “what’s on.” Note that I’m rarely turning it on with “appointment tv” in mind. I’m almost always disappointed. Who could blame me? For about $90 a month, I pay DirecTV for the privilege of taking up about 85% of my DVR space with Sesame Street, Super Why, and Dino Train for the kids (all from PBS). And as an added bonus, the best thing I’ll see on TV that entire week might be something like The Killing - a show that (ask any of its regular viewers) clearly hates its audience. This sort of behavior is unhealthy, but more importantly to me, it’s bad economics. Near as I can tell, I’m paying about $90 a month for about 300 channels that almost never interest me, so I’m ending that now.
There’s been a lot of discussion about consumers “cutting the cord” from cable and dish television providers. Yesterday an entire site dedicated to a sort of social-media form of petitioning HBO for a stand-alone HBOGo cropped up. And recently, during the All Things Digital 10 conference, quite the kerfuffle was made over various comments by Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel that essentially boiled down to “ala carte models wont work” and “people don’t want to pay for anything.” And along with that, he made a lot of misinformed comments about magical anti-piracy technology that the likes of Google could and should implement if they were really willing to help protect his industry. (Yep, his biggest angle was protectionism.)
I’ve seen a lot of numbers on the subject lately, and the ones I tend to believe more tend to support the argument that the “old models” of Hollywood are dying, but I’ll grant that those holding the opposite opinion have their own data too. Instead, I’d rather just speak to my own logic for deciding to cut the cord from these old models of televised entertainment. When it comes to money I spend on entertainment, I’m seeking value. When I’m connected to the old model via a cable or dish subscription, I’m paying money for entertainment that’s ostensibly available 24/7. If I turn the TV on at any hour, there’s something I’m paying for displaying on the television. Of course, whether or not it’s actually entertaining or informative is an entirely different question - one that’s often answered with a resounding “no.” So in essence, I’m paying $90 a month to have by-and-large non-entertaining, non-informative noise pushed to me, whether I’m trying to receive it or not. What’s worse, when I do just give up on trying to find something compelling to watch, but choose to watch “something dumb” on television using the old model, I’m paying for it both with my subscription money and my time. And time’s my most valuable resource in this equation by far. Cable and dish network television make it entirely too easy to waste my resource of time.
So instead, I’ll save that $90 bucks a month, and use services like Netflix to provide childrens’ entertainment when I (God help me) want to have the kids watch tv. Luckily we’ll still have PBS available as well - Sesame Street is actually better today than it was when I was a kid. And for my own entertainment, I’ll be using things like Apple TV to occasionally purchase things I really want to watch, like the Game of Thrones series. At a pure, per-unit rate, such viewing might cost me more, but at least I’ll feel like I’m getting some sort of value for both my money and my time, and I’m not subsidizing things like Operation Repo on truTV. I don’t even really know what either one of those things is, but I know I don’t want to help pay for it.
So here’s a warning to all the moving picture content companies seeking to protect their old business models. It comes with no malice or ill intent: I am not the consumer type you want to dismiss. I am not an early adopter. I’ve never pirated a single movie. Throughout my life, from AOL to broadband, from Napster to Spotify, from wine appreciation to craft brews, I’ve proven to be part of the “early majority.” If I’m making the move, it might not yet be too late to change your models, but it will be before too long.
This evening, while scanning Twitter and not watching TV, I saw this tweet re-tweeted many times over…
HBO faces the same issue that studios do with premium VOD. At what point do youset yourself up for the future while you shiv the past?— Jason Hirschhorn (@JasonHirschhorn) June 6, 2012
It’s a tricky question, but there’s a deceptively simple answer, provided by the music industry: You shiv the past before the future shivs you.Tags: