The TV/Internet Wars
As expected, I have been playing Guild Wars 2 for most of the month, and as in times past when I get occupied with a new game, the blog suffers. I’m in a temporary hiatus with the SITA game, and while I have some new stuff about GW2, I think I’ll save it until I actually get a character to the end, which should be surprisingly soon. Another topic I occasionally delve into is TV, and with the new fall season, it seems appropriate.
The last few years, if I have nothing better to do, I watch all the new pilots in hopes that I find my next favorite show. The freshman class of 2011 was a bumper crop with 5 new series I watched every week. Unfortunately, two of the 5 got cancelled, along with a couple of other regular shows I watched. So I have slots to fill, and so far the freshman class of 2012 feels a lot like the 2010 class (none of the new network fall shows of 2010 ever got a second season). My TV viewing may be down this year as a result.
If I do watch less TV this year, I will be following a trend. TV viewing is down everywhere. People don’t turn on the TV and watch whatever is on anymore, they are becoming selective. I don’t even have cable TV, or satellite… I have the internet. Primarily I watch Hulu Plus because most of the shows I am interested in are on it. The small handful of shows that are not on Hulu Plus that I like I can usually get on iTunes or just wait for the DVDs. To watch live TV, I use rabbit ears, and if it is not on broadcast, I don’t watch it.
Once the darling of internet TV, Netflix has hit some rough times. A lot of people consider Netflix a better deal than Hulu Plus due to commercial free content, but Netflix is having a hard time getting and keeping content it can show without raising prices… which it tried already resulting in a mass exodus of subscribers. It also does not help that Amazon and Google have joined the fray of streaming TV content.
With stiff competition it is the content providers — Disney, Warner, Newscorp, Viacom, Columbia, Universal, and Paramount — that hold all the cards. Their prices for movies and TV shows to stream are going up. They also own the majority of network and cable channels, and are primarily the reason your cable, satellite, and IP TV bills keep on going up.
Cable vs. Satellite vs. IP TV
As someone who is in the know on these things, I thought I’d address the question of which is better: Cable, Satellite, or IP TV?
Before I address that question, let me in on a little secret: If you are satisfied with your current TV/Internet provider, but are looking around for a cheaper price, DONT!! Irregardless of what you have, if you like the service and then switch, you will regret it, guaranteed. One reason is human nature. You will nit pick the new service until you convince yourself you made a mistake. I’ve seen it happen. The second, and more important reason, is that you will not save money. The cost of all three services are about the same, and they all have install fees, and equipment fees, and tech visit fees, and early cancellation fees, and other hidden fees that the sales person, who is paid on commission, did not mention. Even if your monthly charge is lower with the new service, that will only be true for a few months, then you are back to full price.
That said, which is the best type of service? Well the very best, is IP TV run with fiber all the way to your house. This is what is available in major cities all over the world, except the US. It exists in the US only if you are lucky enough to be an early customer of Verizon Fios, or in a brand new housing development where Verizon or AT&T service. For the other 99% of us, IP TV comes via fiber to a terminal box up to 2 miles away, then flows through old unreliable copper the last stretch. While true fiber to the house internet can get 100 mbps speed easy, the aging telephone infrastructure means you are lucky if you can get 25 — enough to stream compressed HD TV streams, but not much else.
In the US, the winner is Cable TV. Satellite is good if you can’t get anything else, and you have an unencumbered view facing south, but if Cable is available it is probably better since you don’t lose signals during storms or thick clouds.
So why is Cable better? Mostly it is for the internet. Coaxial cable is not subjected to line noise, and technology keeps improving, pushing bandwidth higher and faster. Also the primary negative of cable — sharing bandwidth with your neighbors — is becoming less and less of a problem as the tech improves. The sharing bandwidth issue was why in the past I would say DSL is often better than Cable, but the game is changing. In fact a growing number of customers (like myself) are getting cable only for the internet. Paying an additional $30 for basic cable TV would be a waste for me.
What needs to happen in the US Internet market
It might surprise most Americans to learn that most of the world enjoys faster and more reliable internet at cheaper prices than we do. The reason is that it is illegal for Telco/Cable companies to block other companies from using their lines to provide service. The result is massive amounts of competition resulting in low prices for better speeds. American Telco/Cable companies oppose such plans, because they make more money gouging American consumers. Blame the corporatocracy for opposing deregulation and consumer choice.