In case you don’t know it, I am a University of Maryland Sports nut. This makes me a very one-dimensional TV watcher and sports fan and I will watch a Maryland soccer game or woman’s basketball game over almost any other sporting event or other TV. In many weeks the only TV / radio / web watching I do is Maryland sports. When I lived in Maryland I went to see these events on campus and traveled to many away games. But for a decade now I have lived in the Virgin Islands and am now moving to Florida, and so I am dependent upon what I can get over the air to get my Maryland sports fix.
Living in the VI has been a real challenge to me since the wide array of cable sports that is available on the mainland is not really available in the Caribbean. Normal cable here has ESPN and ESPN2 and the networks, but not much other sports programming is available. The network channels come from Puerto Rico and often will not even carry somewhat big sports events. Satellite is also different here since we are too far below the horizon to see the LEO satellites used by Dish and DirectTV. Instead we get some odd hybrid piped-in version of DirectTV that has a lot of Spanish channels and carries more soccer than college sports.
And so I have spent the last decade listening to Maryland sports on web radio, or in recent years watching something CBS put together called Terrapin TV. That allows me to watch the non-revenue sports like lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, etc live.
I don’t watch much other TV. My preference for watching other TV shows is to watch a whole series end-to-end. I will often go months at a time without turning on the actual cable box. I just watched the Sopranos end-to-end and that gives me a lot more pleasure than watching shows on TV that I am really not interested in. All we ever bothered to get was the basic channels which is a very tiny twenty channels of mostly local stuff.
Why am I telling you so much about my TV viewing habits? It’s because I don’t think I am unusual. Moving to the VI made me focus on what I really wanted out of TV. And so this might have gotten me used to watching only what I wanted a few years before other people have found this same thing. But as I talk to others about what they watch on TV I am finding more and more people like me. Not that they are Maryland sports nuts (too bad for them), but people are now watching more and more of only what interests them.
This means that there are more and more people like me who are really not interested in the big packages that the cable companies are selling. For a decade I have avoided those. In moving to Florida I am very reluctantly going to buy a DirectTV package, because this looks like the only realistic way to get Maryland Sports when they move to the Big Ten next year. But I am holding my nose in making that purchase, and if there was a way to get only what I want to watch I would gladly pay a la carte prices for it.
I really don’t mind the money I pay to the cable company. I mind that I am supporting a lot of content that has absolutely zero interest for me. And my wife’s viewing habits are similar to mine, sans the Terrapins (but I am slowly working on that).
For now the cable TV companies and the programmers are still tightly holding onto the traditional packages. But as more and more people are getting tired of those packages and elect to opt out for Netflix and the alternatives, the wheels have to eventually come off that model. It has to happen and it’s just a matter of how long it will take to implode. One doesn’t have to be a math wiz to see that in another decade the most basic cable packages are going to be over $100 per month. If for no other reason, people will find alternatives only because they will eventually fail to see the value in writing the big check.
So I asked the question above if anybody is really happy with cable TV anymore? Years ago a lot of people I knew said they liked surfing the channels for hours. But I rarely hear anybody who still prefers to do that anymore. At some point our changing viewing habits are going to make a difference. It can’t come soon enough for me. Go Terps!