I’m sitting here in my room singing a slow loop of the only words I know from the song “No Diggity” (which, I am not proud to say, are just “I like the way you work it. No diggity. And that’s it. It’s a very short rendition), and I can’t figure out why CBS is so popular. I’m not entirely sure how those two things are related, which is a phrase I haven’t uttered since the first time I saw Bruce Jenner and Kim Kardashian in the same house.
It’s 3am, I always find myself writing these things at 3am. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not staying up to write. I’m staying up because I’m in the middle of my once a month laundry marathon (that’s exactly what it sounds like. I only do laundry once every four-to-six weeks. I have a lot of underwear) and I can’t go to bed until I get this last load into the dryer. That should be soon so hopefully this post will be short.
I don’t know all the details because honestly who could possibly care, but basically Time Warner is mad at CBS because CBS doesn’t think CBS is getting enough money and Time Warner doesn’t think Time Warner is getting enough money so they’re taking their ball and saying “Screw you guys, I’m going home” just like Cartman from South Park.
So now, Time Warner has blacked out CBS’ channels from its cable service until they can reach an agreement on the best way to give all the millionaires more millions.
The problem is that blacking out a single channel as a result of this dispute has caused them to accidentally stumble onto the reverse of what cable companies should have already been doing for years: offering their services ala carte.
If you’re anything like me, you’re a single man rapidly approaching thirty, desperately clinging to the tiniest shred of a dream that may or may not actually exist. But that’s not important right now. When I sit down to watch television (which admittedly isn’t very often, so maybe I’m not the target demographic), I watch one of maybe six-to-ten channels. Unless there is something specific on that I’m trying to watch (like a sporting event (welcome back NFL!), a Seinfeld rerun, or an awards show), I really only ever flip between ESPN, the retro cartoon channel (Bugs Bunny 4 lyfe), and not much else. However, I am paying for hundreds — HUNDREDS — of channels that I not only couldn’t name or identify if you asked, but also can’t even FIND most of the time (we have channels like QQ-A6 and stuff like that. What number exactly am I supposed to press to get to that channel?).
As I said, I know I’m not necessarily the prototypical tv consumer, but the fact of the matter is that we ALL pay for channels and programming that we’re never going to touch under normal circumstances (as if you actually watch The Discovery Channel any time of the year other than Shark Week. Come on). If the cable companies and satellite providers had achieving the best customer service in mind (and granted, that is a GIANT “if”), they would give us a digital list — like a sushi sheet at a decent Japanese restaurant — and let us pick and choose the exact channels we wanted with the associated price for each based on popularity, content, etc. I know they sort of do a half-assed version of that now where they give you large groupings of channels and channel packages that you can kind of have some control over, but even in that scenario you’re still paying for a ton of content you don’t want and you don’t need. To stick with the restaurant analogy, imagine you went to an Italian place (future blog topic: why are there no good Italian places within a five-mile radius of my apartment?) and you wanted the spaghetti…but the only way to get the spaghetti was to order it in a dinner package that also came with pickled beets and ten variations of the McRib sandwich (the regular McRib, McRib Family, McRib Plus, McRib Premium, McRibGo, and so on). And you’d say, but I don’t like pickled beets and I hate the McRib (future blog topic: the McRib is awful), can’t I just have the spaghetti, and the apathetic waitress would say “Look this is just how we do things here do you want it or not?” That would be a bad way to run an Italian restaurant (admittedly a pretty weird Italian restaurant) and you probably wouldn’t go there again (unless you were a pregnant lady. …Get it? Because of the stereotype of pregnant women having wacky cravings? …Everything I know about pregnancy comes from 90s sitcoms).
Look, I’m not saying you need to reinvent the incredibly-poorly-made wheel of cable and satellite tv distribution. Make it like the agreement they ended up with in The Matrix — everyone who’s happy with things how they are can stay blissfully and ignorantly plugged into the current system — but at least give people the option of choosing what they actually want vs. using the tube to cram worthless sludge down their throats (I’m looking at you, Two and a Half Men). Also, did you get how I used tube there like the actual feeding tube from The Matrix, but “the tube” is also slang for a television? Nailed it.
You would save time because you’d be less likely to accidentally lose an afternoon by getting sucked into a marathon of Duck Dynasty or Pretty Little Liars or whatever, and you’d save money because you’d only be paying for what you actually want (for me: ESPN, ESPN 2, the four major networks, one channel each of just basic HBO and Showtime (for Game of Thrones and Dexter and whatever next great show they make), a dedicated soccer channel, maybe throw in TBS for NBA games/Conan’s show, and baby, you got yourself a stew going). No gimmicks. No hassle. No diggity.
…But of course, real, customer-focused change like this won’t happen anytime soon because the companies involved only want to play the game if they’re winning. And if not, they’re content to say “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a South Park marathon I need to go watch.
PS Do you agree? Disagree? Have a better system in mind? Leave it all in the comments or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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