Kill Your TV
Since the recession started 800,000 homes have canceled cable TV. The predictions within in the industry is that 1.6 million will drop cable by 2011. And no wonder, with bills running in excess of $100 month, that money can be used in other places, like paying the mortgage or buying food.
Now some will say this is small potatoes, that this is only 1% of the total viewers and that Americans are still watching more boob tube than ever. One recent analysis said the average TV is on 35 hours a week. We are still a nation of addicts.
Still, these numbers suggest several converging trends. One is frugality. The cost for cable TV is high and, with little control of what channels actually come into the home, wasteful. Let's be honest, with 100 or so channels on, we only focus in one maybe ten. The others are a waste of bandwidth. So what are all those other stations doing? Making money for the cable networks. The cable industry has resisted making channel selection more of a cafeteria format where customers select those stations they want to watch. No matter how they parse their words, its all about the Benjamins they are taking out of our pockets and putting in theirs.
Another trend is the shift from TV addict to YouTube Zombie. Yes, cable TV is slowly, perceptively diminishing, but more and more people are using the internet to supplant their need for eyeball stimulation. This trend will actually grow as more and more web sites become 'channels'. A couple of successful examples are funnyordie.com and icnicfare.com. Plus there are several series now on the web. Vampires, comedy, and more as creatives and outsiders look for ways to make the web a more interesting place to see content.
From the Frugal Yankee perspective, dropping cable makes sense. Anecdotal evidence suggests that not seeing commercial TV has some remarkable benefits. Less viewing of ads means less succumbing to the enticements of Big Macs. Less viewing means families will find mutually rewarding ways to entertain themselves. Then there is always the effect that less TV presents artistic possibilities. Folks who kill their TV suddenly find time to fix that chair, paint that picture, organize that scrapbook, make that recipe or many other endeavors. And finally, less TV usually means more activity which leads to better health and lost weight.
However, if the shift is merely to the internet, the benefits may simply be illusory. Perhaps not. Surfing the web looking for content can be and in some cases is, addictive. Yet it also grants far more control to the viewer. No longer will the viewer be constrained by what some creative director or some sponsor wants one to see. The choices will be dictated by interests the viewer has. That shift, that moving paradigm could have a far reaching impact on the types of content available.
No matter what, there is a shift going on. Some of it is promoted by frugality, some by boredom, some by generational tastes. From this vantage point, the TV, as we knew it, is dead. To survive, it will need to change.
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