I wrote in today’s Star Tribune about “cutting the cord” — a trendy term given to those who give up satellite or cable TV — and the options/challenges that face sports fans who attempt to go this route.
The changing ways in which we consume sports has fascinated me for a while, and the story attempted to answer some of the questions about which I had been wondering. The conclusions in the piece were that a lot of people are fed up with pay TV because of the cost or excess of channels they don’t watch, but that for sports fans — particularly those who want to watch local teams — it is difficult to give it up.
In the comments section — sometimes a dangerous place to tread but in this case a place for a good discussion and some witty commentary — BallFour sums up the frustration pretty well: There aren’t more than a dozen or so worthwhile TV networks available, yet people pay for them all. If you had to buy 19 bundles of kale to get a half-gallon of ice cream at a grocer, you’d quit eating ice cream.
Another good point from teamtepley: Cut the cord years ago and will never go back. My kids hardly know what commercials are.. And, since our local sports teams I care about have been mostly unwatchable anyway I really haven’t missed a thing. Watching sports on tv is like anything else once you get over it you just find something else to do.
Indeed. Some of you might remember this from previous posts a while back, but I went nearly three years of my adult life not only without cable, but without a TV. These were three years that I worked at the Star Tribune, roughly late 2004 through mid-2007. I was living with my soon-to-be-wife at the time, and I followed sports like a lot of you said you do when I queried you for the story: read a lot of stories online, went to quite a few games in person (both as a fan and for work) and, if there was a game I really wanted to watch, went to a friend’s house or a bar to watch it.
I don’t remember exactly what it was like because it was a while ago, but I do remember not terribly missing it even though sports were such a big part of my job. What both of us missed most was not being able to just sit down and watch a movie or a TV show (we had a tiny portable DVD player that we would watch, which is pretty much how I viewed the entire catalog of Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm).
So as a wedding present to ourselves in 2007, we got a flat screen TV — nothing fancy, just a 32-incher, but by far the nicest TV either of us had ever owned. The local cable company was offering a package of Internet where it was basically cheaper to get basic cable (networks and a few other channels, though no sports channels) than just Internet alone, so we got that along with it.
Slowly, I started watching a few things other than movies … and slowly I became frustrated with how little there was to watch … until one day I announced to my wife that I really wanted to upgrade what we had. She consented, we got DirecTV, and we’ve had 80 billion channels (including more sports than one could have ever thought was imaginable) ever since.
Now, if I’m not paying attention, I will reflexively turn the TV on when I get home from work or if I know there is a (fill in the blank: Wild, Wolves, Twins, Gophers) game on at night. It became even more pronounced once my wife became pregnant and even more so now that we have a soon-to-be-1-year-old because we’re home at night a lot more than we used to be.
Noticing that, I’ve tried to be more conscious of what I watch. It’s not that TV is “evil” or anything like that. It’s that there is so much else to do, and the games kind of blur together after a while. There’s just no need to watch every … single … one — even for someone who writes about sports for a living.
Doing this story made me wonder if our household could give up cable/satellite again. Our household literally watches five channels about 90 percent of the time the TV is on (ESPN, FSN, BTN, HGTV and the Food Network), yet we get hundreds more and pay roughly $150 a month for TV and internet combined. Almost all of the shows/movies we watch come from Netflix streaming.
If I was just a casual sports fan, I would ditch it in a second and get Sling TV — the new service launched by Dish that gives you 16 channels, including ESPN, HGTV and the Food Network, for $20 a month, contract-free. Sling and internet would be about half the price we’re paying now — cutting $75 a month from our budget — but it’s those regional sports networks, and giving up local teams, that is the sticking point for me and so many others.
True a la carte pricing, where we could pick and choose the channels we really want, would be ideal — as it would be for a lot of people — but that is what the cable/satellite companies and networks fear. So I don’t know if we will ever truly get that — and even if we do, the pricing on individual channels might be high enough that, when adding up all the ones you want, the cost is comparable to having everything.
So really, like a lot of others, I’m stuck either waiting for a shift in the way TV is offered that might never arrive … or trying to make a decision about what I can live without (and how I want to live).
I don’t think I’m there yet when it comes to cutting the cord, but I’m thinking about it more and more.