Why cable? Why pay for cable more like it in 2021 right? I hear people make snide remarks about cable companies all the time. So why did I, a techie who cut the cord in 2009 now sitting here watching TV through my cable box rather than just streaming what I find on Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, etc.? There’s a rational explanation that doesn’t include nostalgia hardly at all.
I tried streaming only. All that time while working on the broadcast news media industry. Despite knowing there was loads of locally produced plus one time live content airing on networks that never show up on streaming services, I kept towing the line. The cult of digital is far reaching, over bearing, uses strong, harsh language to harass and guilt people into following them down the rabbit hole yet here I am finding more enjoyment out of watching live TV than I have gotten out of streaming old shows long syndicated or so-called exclusive shows I often find for sale on DVD for dirt cheap at Walmart.
There’s something else at play here. I want to dive into this a little deeper. When I left cable behind it wasn’t for the often cited reasons people in the digital cult proclaim. I was already well versed and neck deep n piracy at that time. Money wasn’t the issue. I signed up for Netflix day one as soon as streaming plans were available. I was there the first day Hulu offered public access. I had Disney+ and HBO Max pre-ordered and pre-installed before launch. I bought into the digital streaming cult hook, line and sinker. Until I found the cracks.
It started last year while working for a local CBS affiliate. I started noticing how much content was being produced on a local level going out live over the air that wasn’t streaming. While the company I worked for scrambled to launch it’s own streaming platform to compete in that space I realized how much good, quality content I was getting for free over the air. I was close enough to receive Dallas stations, on a clear day that is, so I hooked up the antenna and picked up the local channels. I found I was getting access to more shows I enjoyed watching, for free, than the stuff I was finding among all the various streaming apps I watched. There are a host of shows that just can’t be found streaming.
It is no secret live sports is difficult to get on most streaming platforms. Another type of content severely lacking from most streaming services, news shows, late night comedy shows and day time morning talk shows, all content I found myself enjoying quite a bit but having to break up into bite sized chunks on YouTube. I did this for over a decade before I remembered for a mere $40 a month I could just get a cable box, a DVR and all the shows I wanted 24/7. Yes you have to “put up with” commercials but that’s not such a bad deal when you remember advertisements sometimes do help people discover, or remember, products and services they otherwise might not have known about or forgotten.
The real kicker was the day I started going through the hoops to sign up for a YouTube TV account. The notion the digital crowd proclaimed as the solution to getting “live TV” was pay $60 a month for YouTube TV, it’s the same thing as cable they proclaimed. I tried it out. It was not the same thing as cable. In fact it wasn’t an enjoyable experience at all. It was YouTube but different. Not what I wanted. I keep getting harassed to try YouTube premium. Not interested in that either.
I am not against content being behind a paywall. I am not opposed to sifting through some advertisements to offset the cost of production. As a professional who spent years working in the TV industry with aspirations to work for a network talk show someday I realized I was missing out on the shows I wanted to watch, all because I was stuck in syndicated rerun land the Streaming apps enticed me with. This really sunk in when I noticed everything I was watching on Netflix were TV shows I already had on DVD, as in old shows they picked up. Sure I would catch and DO enjoy some originals. I love Stranger Things, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Cooking with Paris, among many others. But with the transphobia situation around Netflix I was okay cutting ties with that company, at least for now.
Two days after hooking up my DVR I have already consumed more quality produced live content than the entire 11+ years I tried to make the digital “cord cutting” work. I proclaimed it myself. Get an antenna for OTA local broadcasts. Get a Tivo DVR and stream your “cable” shows via Netflix, HBO Max, etc. Then I realized. Why should I wait a day or two to watch Smackdown on Hulu when I can catch it live over the air? Why watch reruns of Wheel of Fortune on Netflix when I could watch current episodes as they air? What about Big Brother? The Today Show? Ellen? So many talk shows, news shows and similar content just flat not available on streaming platforms.
I didn’t start out in news. My first TV job was producing a daytime talk show, classified as newsmagazine by IMDb. It was a local show reminiscent of Good Morning America. My evening show I produced was called Good Evening Nebraska. It was hardly a stale boring live local news show. It was a more exciting local show that mixed typical news format with other types of stories and content you see on late night shows.
I fell in love with live TV when I was a kid. I loved working in the live TV business. Yes I know local TV is news-centric because that’s what pays the bills. But so much content exists that isn’t news. Speaking of news, you notice how little live news actually exists on those streaming apps? Not that it doesn’t entirely but it’s hard to find. I am not talking just the 24 hour news commentary you find on CNN, MSNBC or Fox News. I am talking about the live nightly news you miss out on. Oh sure you can stream individual stories or segments of The CBS Evening News, or NBC Nightly News. But you can’t watch the LIVE newscast as it happens, on any streaming service.
Having worked in live television there is a thrill the professionals working behind the scenes gets from putting their blood, sweat and years (LITERALLY!) into bringing their local audience a live, entertaining broadcast. So much of that goes unwatched if you cut the cord entirely. Sure you can get some OTA channels and a DVR but you still miss out on so much other odds and ends stuff. Plus the syndication rights that aren’t bogged down by weird exclusive streaming contracts allows me to record and revisit favorites like The Big Bang Theory, Saved by the Bell, Friends and even more obscure shows not currently streaming anywhere. My DVR reached 20 percent full within a day. I forgot how much quality content is available exclusively via cable. I have no regrets going back. I only regret all the amazing content I missed out on that I will have to wait ten years or more to find pop up on whatever replaces Youtube down the road. Not to mention all the entertaining locally produced commercials your local area businesses produce. That itself qualifies as quality content in it’s own right. I missed having cable. I can even have cable and keep my favorite streaming apps. It doesn’t have to be an either or, why can’t we have both?