I hate the cable companies.

It’s surprisingly easy to get by without cable if you have Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, along with broadcast TV (it’s in 720p, it’s awesome). The only place where you’re screwed is sports.

We canceled cable long ago and have barely noticed. At least, the one of us that doesn’t watch much sports hasn’t. If a game I want isn’t on broadcast TV, I’m either trekking to a bar or trying to find a sub-par, not-very-legal streaming site. Even Monday Night Football’s on cable now.

Solution: I pay for a subscription to one of the networks’ online, HD streaming services, and watch it that way instead.
Actual Implementation: You can only use those services if you already have them on cable TV.

Let’s think about that again. I don’t have cable. I want to watch it online instead. They say I can watch it online, but only if I have cable.

Why exactly would I want to subscribe to the online service if I had cable? Do I have brain damage?

ESPN will let you do it online if you verify through your cable provider that you already have ESPN, ESPN2, and/or ESPNU (ESPN3 is still available for those truly desperate to watch some form of sports).

HBO will let you do it if you’re already subscribed with your cable provider.

And now the NHL Network. The Penguins-Capitals are kicking off their first game tonight. I don’t have the NHL Network, so I go online and subscribe for $20 a month. Now I should be able to watch it, right?

Actually, the following games are blacked out for a full 48 hours:

  • Games aired in your local broadcast area (makes sense I guess, and it’s 720p so that’s fine)
  • Games aired on your regional cable sports network, whether you have it or not (wait, what?)
  • Games that are aired nationally, either on NHL Network, Versus, or NBC (what in the hellll)

I see the reasoning. Local broadcast is one thing, but the cable companies won’t abide the networks doing something that could cut into their subscriptions. So here I am, standing at the gate: “I will GIVE you money! Right now! If you let me watch online, I will pay you!” Meanwhile, the cable companies have the gun pointed at the network’s head.

I picture it something like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction: “Let them pay for TV online, I dare you, I DOUBLE-DARE YOU, mf-er”…

I’ve seen two places where they did it right: The 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and the Big Ten Network. Both use CBS Sports as a backend, and the tournament streamed EVERY SINGLE GAME in HD, for free. The way they managed to pull it off was revolutionary: commercials. You know, how when you watch sports on TV and there are commercials? Same thing. No cable company involved. 64 games.
[EDIT 10/15: I found out the hard way that actually, the “Big Ten Digital Network” does not carry all of the games on their own damn network. Personally I found the whole thing to be very misleading when I signed up. All I could get of the Penn State - Purdue games was a medium-quality radio stream (better than nothing?). Surprise, though, they have a new service in beta which lets you watch every game they have… if you are subscribed to the Big Ten Network via 3-5 cable/satellite networks. Comcast isn’t one of them.]

A couple people have told me that the market will take care of itself. Consumer demand for online content will drive up, demand for cable and satellite will go down, and all of the advertisers will switch over to paid or free online HD streaming services.

I, however, don’t think that will happen. The cable companies have already shown that they can maintain a stranglehold over network juggernauts like HBO and ESPN. With that kind of power, they can go ahead and decide where we will consume our media content for us. The market no longer takes care of itself; they take care of it and we get pushed along.

Yeah, you can say “it’s just TV”. And I’m more pissed off at the fact that all of the Pens-Caps games are going to be on Versus than anything. It’s just a fleeting symptom of a larger cause, though. Take my money, that I am freely giving to you? No, that would make way too much sense.

  1. mithunc posted this
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