The Cable Service Conundrum

I’ve been off cable for almost 5 years now. All of the television content I watch comes from Netflix, iTunes, and an over-the-air antenna. I watch discs from Netflix with an old non-up-conversion DVD player and Netflix’s streaming content with my Nintendo Wii. I watch iTunes content with my first-generation Apple TV and record over-the-air television using one of Elgato’s TV tuners and export shows to iTunes where it then syncs to the Apple TV for playback.

My television setup is a little more complicated than I’d like it to be and is extremely difficult to explain to the occasional house guest. Because of this, I’ve been considering a simple cable package. When bundled with my Internet connection it would only cost me an additional $20 per month. I could still record all of my shows with the Elgato tuner and watch them on my Apple TV as I always have, just with a wider range of channels to record from. I’d also get the added benefit of being able to hand the remote to my girlfriend’s parents, point out 4 buttons to them, and be able to walk away without worry of additional questions.

I’d have the ability to watch shows like Top Chef, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad without waiting for the DVD release or paying $2-3 per episode in iTunes. And, that’s not mentioning the few television shows that I would like to watch but aren’t even available anywhere other than cable television.

But, I deal with these frustrations because I hope that all of my friends and family members would be willing to learn how to use my television setup. I like it. I’ve been using it for nearly three years and have enjoyed the freedom of having nearly all of my television content available through the Apple TV’s beautiful interface whenever I want to watch a show. And, It’s not really as difficult to use as it seems, especially if you ignore the DVD player and Wii.

But, my primary reason for skipping cable service is that I don’t want to give any more money to Time Warner Cable. A company that treats their customers like jerks and couldn’t care less about it. A company that charged my father $5 a month for 5 years for a cable box that he didn’t even have, and only offered him a $100 credit after he called them to complain about the charge. I’d get my Internet access from anyone else if there was a viable alternative. But, I’d rather pay a terrible company $50 a month than deal with 1Mb/s download speeds.

And then there’s the possibility of a cable-like internet television service. Like the Apple offering that was rumored late last year. Or the more recent rumor from Reuters that Microsoft is considering such a service.

Yinka Adegoke:

The software powerhouse has held talks with TV networks to create a new subscription-based TV service on its Xbox gaming console that would rival efforts by Google Inc, Apple Inc and Netflix Inc, sources told Reuters.

Hopefully someone like Microsoft offers a subscription service that can give me all the shows that I want, for a low price, with an interface that my friends and family will be able to understand. I was sort of expecting Apple to announce an option with the release of the Apple TV, but that wasn’t the case. Now, my hope is that there will be more substantial rumors regarding Microsoft’s offering before I bite the bullet and start paying for cable. Because, I’ll admit it, I like telling people how long I’ve gone without cable and I’d certainly rather give my money to Microsoft than Time Warner.

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