How many people actually know what they are buying when they buy television services?

It used to be that you bought a television. What you got when you tuned in was whatever was broadcast from big towers on top of tall buildings — free. It usually came from the tower placed atop the tallest building or a mountain where you lived.

It cost nothing. You paid for the television and the broadcasting was for everyone, courtesy of the FCC.

That’s how it was supposed to be, anyway. What you actually got was something else. Unless you happened to be positioned perfectly to get clear pictures from the signal tower, you might or might not actually get the channel you wanted to watch. Or anything at all. Signals were weak, too. So you got “snow” and “rolling.”

If you had a big antenna on top of your house, that could help, but it was a lot of years before television had the kind of resolution we have come to accept as normal. “Free” signals have not kept up with the quality of reception we expect.

In fact, since the 1980s, we have mostly given up free television. Cable TV arrived. With a sigh, we exchanged free television for cable companies who could give us clear reception at a price — replacing all that snow, rolling, and rabbit ears. All we had to do was pay the bill.

With cable, you could see clearly — as long as the cable worked. You paid a price for this service. Initially, not a huge price, but it got bigger and eventually, huge. Ultimately, the price for cable television was bigger than the price for electricity, trash collection, and sometimes, heat.

They lured you in with “specials” for 3-months, 6-months or a year. And when the “special” ended, you got a bill so enormous, your heart nearly stopped.

Suddenly, along came streaming packages. Streaming — wi-fi — was the stuff that made our computers work. It turned out it could also power television.

Instead of trying to compete with wi-fi-based services, cable companies kept raising prices while customers said: “Screw this!” and dropped their cable packages. Despite all evidence to the contrary, cable companies are still convinced most users will hang onto cable because they are too stupid and/or lazy to make the change.

They are wrong. Of course, since they are still the only ones allowed to offer wi-fi, they can keep raising those prices too. I’m sure they’ll keep getting their piece of our asses forever.

Even old people like us refused to pay hundreds of dollars for inferior packages. Ironically, AFTER I dropped Charter (Spectrum — the absolutely worst cable company of them all) offered me a good package at a reasonable price. I said “NO” because I’m not playing their game anymore.

I know them. They’ll offer me a bargain and next year, raise the price by $50. Been there, done that. Not doing it again.

So I bought YouTubeTV which is not only a moderately-priced platform but includes MLB and our local sports TV channel so we can watch all the baseball everywhere AND our own team (the Red Sox) too. What’s missing? HBO and Comedy Central. I miss HBO because of John Oliver — but it’s the only thing we watch on HBO and for $15/month, that a lot of money for one very good show. As for Comedy Central, we can watch it on the computer for free. I hate missing John Oliver, but it’s a small price to pay overall.

What are we buying? We are buying a platform that includes channels, just like when we bought a TV and got channels. The channels come in LIVE — just like “real” television. We can save shows (an unlimited number of them) but we can’t fast forward through them to skip commercials as we did on the DVR. That’s something we thought we’d miss but it turns out we don’t miss it much. Instead, we go to the bathroom, the kitchen, turn down the sound and actually talk to each other.

YouTubeTV is a platform, not a channel. It isn’t Netflix or Acorn. It’s more like cableTV than an individual channel.

Each channel is an individual channel that comes in over the platform. Live. You aren’t buying a “channel.” You are buying a live platform consisting of many signals.

What do you get? All of the networks for your area and a bunch of other channels, depending on your location. We are in the “Boston area” and get that package. We have friends in western Massachusetts who get a slightly different package.

Regardless, it’s a big package. A lot better than what we got from Charter including a lot less junk. More watchable channels. Lots of sports. TCM. Plenty of movies including Sundance, TBS. A variety of news channels. If you hate something (Fox news comes to mind) you can turn it off (we turned it off). A few kid things we turned off.

There’s also a connection to YouTube (regular) so you can watch some very old movies that you can’t find anywhere else via your computer, too. I’m really happy with it.

If Netflix gets any more expensive, I may decide to ditch it. It hasn’t gotten better — just more expensive.

You also get five family connections. We’ve only used three: me, Garry, and our granddaughter. Owen isn’t sure they watch enough TV to bother with it.

It has taken Garry a while to realize that TCM is not a separate channel but a channel that is part of the package that is YouTubeTV, that all those channels are part of one platform. That it’s like getting an entire cable package. For $40 a month. Including baseball.

Oh, happy day!

Categories: Media, Technology, Television

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19 replies

  1. I remember that where we lived in South Australia we used to get horrible TV reception. Certain channels were unwatchable but it was different depending on where you lived. We could not get SBS, but a workmate who lived nearby could but could not get another channel that we had no real problems with. At that time there was an oil refinery nearby and some said that we got interference from the ships at anchor waiting to load. As a beachside suburb, we had low hills behind us too. Local people continually asked the powers that be to do something to improve their signals to no avail. Eventually, two things occurred that solved the problem. The advent of digital TV and the closure of the oil refinery. By this time we had moved away.


    • At least they made an EFFORT to solve the problem. In the states, they didn’t make an effort to fix it. Cable came. Everyone signed up and that was that.


      • I wouldn’t really call it an effort in that case as the coming of digital TV and closure of the refinery were totally unrelated. However, I know some neighbouring areas were successful in getting repeater stations ( hope that’s the right term) installed to improve their signals. It was the 90s so hard to remember now.


  2. Sounds like a winner to me!


  3. In England we paid a TV LICENSE (tax) for local stations. In our flat we still bought /paid a monthly fee for “antenna” and a few more channels. You have to have the license to view anything streaming on TV, computer, smartphones etc.


  4. We dropped cable 15 years ago, but now have one of those bundles that is unbelievably cheap so about three years ago we got it again. The home phone is free and the cable and internet is remarkably discounted. We pay $81.41 for all three. Of course this could all change with the blink of an eye. When those changes come I get on the phone and do battle. It has worked so far.


    • We have no competition, probably because the town is so small. There will NEVER be competition here. Not enough people to make it worth the effort to compete so we just get screwed left right and center.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s competition here but they don’t really compete. Pricing is fixed.


        • The smaller the town, the crappier they treat you. It would take the telephone company half a day to string a wire down our road, but they don’t bother. not enough people live on the street. So we have cable. Technically, we also have direct TV, but we have too many trees, so we don’t have line-of-sight. So we have JUST cable. Just Charter.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. We get Programmes from all over Europe according to what you pay for. I know we get the British channels extra,. That is all I really know. I leave the rest to Mr. Swiss because TV does not interest me with its films and shows. I prefer to read a book, perhaps write or work on my photography. There is perhaps one soap I like to watch, but if I miss it for some reason, no big deal. If I am alone in the evening i do not even switch the TV on. If Mr. Swiss goes to bed before me The TV is switched off.


  6. I grew up in one of the flattest places none to Man – Northern Ohio. Without the rooftop antenna Cleveland, 45 miles away, came in crystal clear. With the roof top, Toledo, 65 miles the other direction, came in crystal clear, and Detroit was doable. OK, I digress – I dropped cable last year and picked up Hulu, the streaming version, not the basic. Will never look back…


    • Flat is the secret. New York would have been sort of flattish except for the building and the hills and the Palisades. Okay, so NOT flat. We barely got anything, even WITH an antenna. Cable seemed a blessing at the time. Not so much after a while. Now, they have us by the throat. What happened to competition?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was a relatively early adapter of satellite because I had an argument with our cable company in the 90s. When I yelled at the guy over the phone I said I thought everybody who worked for an monopoly should be put in a special prison for the rest of their lives. OK, I was fuming 😉


        • I’m STILL fuming AND I’m fuming that they allow and encourage it to continue. Didn’t we banish monopolies under good old Teddy Roosevelt? Remember breaking up AT&T? How did that work out? I’m furious with our town for making a deal with the WORST cable group they could … and because we are so small, we have no choice at all. You can’t use satellite because of all the trees. We tried. The trees grew and that was that. Even using streaming, they’ve raised the price of wi-fi so much that we aren’t saving all that much, but at least we are getting a better package and we’d have to pay the wi-fi price anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

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