Cord Cutting: A matter of laziness

We cut off cable TV from our home 1.5 months ago, and as you may know, we’re very happy that we have done so. We get all the programming we need via on-demand services, and occasionally we get our regular programming via an interior TV antenna.

However, according to this documentary, where a few families were tasked to spend a week with one of these little geek media devices (Boxee, AppleTV, Roku, GoogleTV etc), cord cutting was not as easy for them as it was for us.

The problems they encountered mainly were, in order:
1. No live TV.
2. Most reality/kids/news/talk/etc programs aren’t available on-demand.
3. Confusing user interfaces.
4. Long buffering times.
5. Hardware setup & configuration issues.

These are legitimate issues. None of these devices has live TV, they don’t even feature the “free” network channels. None of these devices shows live news, or has non-primetime shows on demand. Except the AppleTV, it’s true that the rest of the user interfaces suck. And most of the US has slow DSL internet, making HD content too hot to handle.

Now, if you go point by point, you will always find ways to rebut these issues (e.g. get an antenna, Hulu Plus, etc.), but in reality, yours and my solutions won’t matter to these families. What these people ultimately want is easy, passive TV. They don’t want to think for themselves. They don’t want to watch something only if it’s truly good. They just want to turn ON the TV, and just watch almost whatever is on it at the time. As long as the program is easily digested, no one would change the channel. Viewers just don’t want to have to choose, they want one less thing to decide and research about.

Of course, there are ways for Apple/Roku/Google to bring a true TV revolution, but their offerings must look and feel more like traditional TV. Currently, they feel more like a computer, wearing fake clothes to look more like a TV product. But in reality, these products are still designed too much like a computer. I explained this here before.

To be honest, I don’t quite expect older people to like active TV, since they are used to this lazy kind of TV-watching in all their years. But I was infuriated when I saw the teenage kid saying that he would just watch whatever movie the cable channels would currently show. I indeed expected more critical thinking from a youngster. You see, eventually, apathetic behavior by some, comes back and bites all the rest of us in the ass — at many levels in our lives.

But hey, as long as we can watch “Sister Wives”, “Kate Plus 8”, or Snooki, all is cool.


Adam S wrote on January 29th, 2011 at 6:22 AM PST:

Wow, how condescending. So if I don’t want to use Google TV (I have the Revue, FYI) because I’m not particular about what movie I watch tonight, I’m stupid?

I have a DVR, which means I watch whatever I want whenever I want, and my whole family can understand how to use it since the UI is ugly, but fairly consistent metaphor-wise everywhere. Does that makes us too stupid to think for ourselves?

How about the fact that, much like desktop Linux for the first several years, or smart phones pre-iPhone, the cutting edge stuff just isn’t that good?

Remember that quote “Linux isn’t free unless your time has no value”? Same thing here.

zima wrote on January 29th, 2011 at 8:42 AM PST:

>I explained this here before.
More than once? (it’s not stupid, Adam S, just human)

Jim wrote on January 29th, 2011 at 12:37 PM PST:

I am having a hard time figuring out hulu. I find it difficult to find the free content, even when Icheck the free button it pulls up the paid content. I am new to having dsl in my home. Normally I use free wifi at a coffee shop, but I bought a house and now am trying to get free streaming tv.
Hulu charges the same as netflix for a monthly fee and netflix seems to have more content. Anyway, would love any advice on finding free content for tv
I am 57yrs old

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 29th, 2011 at 2:48 PM PST:

you misunderstood. The “not thinking for themselves” is about the part of watching WHATEVER is on TV that looks easily digested. Not because someone has cable and a DVR. And yes, I find people who watch random shit and they don’t put a tiny bit of effort to find some better programming, even within their cable box, unfortunate, at best.

I can understand people wanting background music on their car. But for a visual art as TV is, it’s easier to recognize the good from the bad. They have fewer excuses to not try and do just that.

for Hulu just use your laptop with TV-Out, using the Desktop Hulu app. Hulu Plus is mostly paid content instead.

Michael C. wrote on January 29th, 2011 at 8:52 PM PST:

“Passive TV” dumbs people down. At least in the olden times you could discuss the movie or the news you watched on the TV with friends because everyone watched the same channel, but now there are hundreds of channels to choose from, so this unifying function of TV is gone.

Give me streaming from Netflix and YouTube plus capability to save videos in unencrypted format plus some decent UI and I am in.

Kim Wennerberg wrote on February 6th, 2011 at 2:55 PM PST:

Thanks for your thoughtful article about TV. I particularly like you assessment about “easy, passive TV”. (Do I hear echoes of Marshal McLuhan’s labeling of TV as a “cool medium”, meaning it takes little interaction?)

I am cutting the cord myself soon, though I will still have some of that passive TV avialable. I am hoping that my family and I will select shows to view instead of taking what’s on. Even on the show, 60 Minutes, I find I watch the whole broadcast thing. When I stream it I will select segments. Nice.

Graham wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 12:56 PM PST:

We are one of those families where we (well I in particular) would like to cut the cable, and be just internet only, but

2. Most reality/kids/news/talk/etc programs aren’t available on-demand (primarily LOCAL news and kids). Sure there is some kids stuff online, and news in various forms, but getting the local/regional news is pretty bad here where I live).

Once we have that better accessible via net, we’ll be calling the cable company.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 3:48 PM PST:

I don’t think these programs will ever make it to devices like the Roku. There will be consolidation in the TV business, so smaller studios will go away. I think it’s just a matter if you can to cut the cord or not.

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