Cut the Cord.

I did it. I finally did the inevitable. Some say it couldn’t be done. Well, it can and you should consider doing the same. Get out your scissors and cut the proverbial cord. Why cut the cord? Because it can lead to better service for everyone and there are some other benefits you’ll discover. It’s also easier than you think.

Cut the Cord

I recently decided to take the challenge and “cut the cord” to my cable television. Yes, I figuratively “cut” my cable TV cord by canceling the TV portion of my bill. I am sorry Comcast, but my family has the tendency of turning on worthless programming to have some noise on in the background (most times). While I will miss some time-wasting shows like Gold Rush (will they ever find a massive gold reserve in the jungle), the Great American Food Cart Race (Tyler, I will have to catch you on reruns) and even Storage Wars (Barry will be ok without me) – what I hope to regain is both freed up time and better choices.

That’s a funny word – choice. It’s really freedom we desire that gives us the ability to choose. We can choose what stores we’d like to shop both locally and online, the choice of water we drink in bottles or special purified water in our refrigerator all the way to the place we worship which I am grateful for as an American. We love our freedoms in the US. However, as someone who knows a little bit about the television and entertainment space, I have to say that freedom isn’t available as we would desire when it comes to true content availability.

Have you ever wondered why you have to pay extra to get a few channels you want to watch on TV? Let’s use ESPN for example. It’s never included in a basic cable television package. While the main channel may be available in the next upgrade, the real package we want is the 3rd or 4th upgrade. Notice how I use the word upgrade in my description. That’s what the entire pricing model is based on – getting you in then upgrading you to the “proper package” as if they are doing us a favor.

What we really want is more inline with what we need – simple choices. We “really don’t need” the other 20 junk, filler channels that complete the package we have to purchase to get the 2-3 channels we want to watch. You have a HDTV set, “that’s the next tier we offer” and the classic line: “did we mention you need to rent our set-top box to receive the signal we send to your home?” Oh you want to record your shows? Well, that’s the watch-me-now package and that’s another upgrade and equipment fee too. We quickly price ourselves up and out of our desired budget because if we are not careful. And that’s the problem. When it comes to cable tv, they maximize your spend till it’s too difficult for you to pull back. No one wants to “downgrade” or lose something the channels they want to watch, when they want to watch it. Everyone knows it’s a trap. And as a customer, you, me, we… have all fallen victim to their ways.

What would be ideal (in a perfect world) is more like an iTunes model. Pay a flat price to get access to programming. In some ways, Netflix is a great base package to consider. What is missing are new releases, current seasons, and the “fake out” they put you through when shows go missing. It’s happened several times to me as a customer and each time I’ve called to explain that they are abusive with their “customer service” as they yank programming without notice. They still don’t get it. Time Warner customers understand the power of yanking off programs you pay for and expect to receive. However, the content providers get greedy wanting greater fees. The service provider wants lower fees and greater selection. The one forgotten in their negotiations – the customer.

The customer loses. Over and over again, we are losing when it comes to proper television service. We forget when we have cable tv that we pay for the service – to watch a channel we subscribe to in our package. Then we have to sit through commercials. It’s a double-dip. For Time Warner customers, this last time around, CBS wanted a transmission fee to carry their channels. Time Warner wanted to keep the ability to insert commercials they, the cable provider, sells into their channels. The broadcaster or station still sells their own ads direct too. The money is spread across multiple sources of revenue for all parties. Yet, as the customer, we never get true selection and convenience for the price we pay to get quality service.

Cable TV started in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania as a gloried antenna – pull in clear signal for local customers who couldn’t access it without a powerful antenna they couldn’t locate on their home. The name cable tv is named from the cable that ran from the main antenna the provider operated and run into customers’ homes. Don’t believe me? Look up CATV. It’s called “Community Access Television” or “Community Antenna Television” because it provided clear broadcast signal within a local community. Today, they’ve morphed from just broadcast television into behemoth companies selling cable tv, movies on-demand, phone, internet, home security and phone service. Any way they can maximize their investment in the “cable” or fiber they run to your home or through their relationship with you as their customer. It’s a good model.

The problem they face is customer backlash if we were to stand up against their price and packaging practices. They are not the only one to blame for the mess. It’s also the greed flowing through Hollywood. They own the content and will try any means to make more off their investments. This may mean selling rights of certain properties to a network, service provider or even their own services that sell it direct to customer.

There are some trying to fix this imbalance. We know from basic economics of supply and demand that they all can only survive as long as customers put up with their system. It’s really an ecosystem since no one has been successful to break it. Steve Jobs was determined to break it as he did with music with iTunes. What do we do? We can wait around for Google, Apple, Aerio, Netflix and others to do it for us, but until we unite against the system, it won’t change.

So I’ve taken my step to add to those who’ve cut the cord. I am tired of losing time to the worthless channels that compete for my eyes and ears. I miss many quality channels that gave me relevant and timely news, weather and sports. I will miss some shows I looked forward to watching each week. But I am slowly replacing it with more studying, reading and writing. Our family has more time together instead of being sucked into the television. I’ve kept our internet, antennae, Netflix and Redbox for now and will wait for Cable and Content providers to reinvent themselves because of customers like me who said enough is enough.

Downton Abbey, the Brady Bunch and the Jetsons

Three shows (Downton Abbey, the Brady Bunch and Jetsons) each share a common theme: an interesting housemaid helping around the home.

Ok, so I am not making a full set of direct comparisons between the three, but what first got me thinking about this was how much Alice (the housemaid) on the Brady Bunch and O’Brien (Called Miss O’Brien too on Downton Abbey) looked alike. The more I thought about the two, the more comparisons I started making about their role in each family and how it reflected the time period. What I concluded was that the period or time difference wouldn’t change either character. One is conniving, deceptive and manipulative while the other is funny, quirky and full of heart.

Downton Abbey's Miss O'Brien and the Brady Bunch's Alice
Miss O’Brien from Downton Abbey looks like Alice from the Brady Bunch

Both Downton Abbey and the Brady Bunch are very popular shows that either have or had a strong following. But the differences between each family (and their helpers) are almost opposites.So what would that look like in today’s culture?

I guess the next evolution or change is moving away from people to technology and robots. Perhaps Rosie from the Jetsons will be a reality. Think of a Siri that works and can perform real tasks in the home. Or she or he (Siri) acts like Carson from Downton and tells someone else to do this or that command. Like everything else, we can’t stop the move toward robotics and artificial intelligence. Why not have a household helper who doesn’t talk back, gets the job done right the first time and doesn’t ask for a raise – only needs basic maintenance. And if you don’t like it, no worries. Next year, you can get a new one with more features for a lower price. Or perhaps a new personality you can download or voice (like your GPS or Siri voice).

Again, this quick thought originated watching the sneaky O’Brien (Sarah O’Brien) and her discussing how she is a servant and how “they pay us to do as we’re told. That’s all.” Then several months later seeing Alice (Alice Nelson) in action in the Brady Bunch while watching it with my kids and how Alice didn’t complain, had a smile on her face most times and real care and concern. Here was someone who cared not for one person, but the entire family. It made me think how in today’s world, the “old ways” from just fifty years ago, let alone one hundred years ago and the blend of technology really does change people and the personalities they present. Both can do a great job (minus the talking back or side comments) if they apply themselves. A work ethic makes all the difference.

I am glad that people are still people. There are different varieties, some more pleasant than others. And grateful that some of them are only ones that “play one on tv.” Back to my kids. I really am grateful they are learning to
do a good job in everything they do. Some small attitude changes here and there and a strong work ethic will pay them dividends. Just watch out for Rosie, she’s already becoming reality.

Now if we can just get those flying cars in the Jetsons or even the Hover Board (floating skateboards) from Back to the Future… I am sure Google or Apple are already working on it.

Welcome to David Geipel

David Geipel

David Geipel
David Geipel

Welcome to my official “David Geipel” blog. Nothing real fancy, but it’s functional. Simplicity is key. Someone who doesn’t have a lot to say… but hoping this spot will contain some insights into life. Some tech insights and perhaps a twist on growing in Grace. Always something to learn. Room to grow. A season for change.

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