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September 4, 2015

The recession: bad for cable...good for the Internet

by Richard Keller, posted Feb 7th 2009 9:03AM

Hulu racked up an increase of viewers late last year as more people turned away from cable.As we all know, and are probably tired of hearing because it makes us so damned depressed, the recession is hitting everyone hard. Businesses are closing left and right, people are losing their jobs, and unemployment rates are hitting levels not seen since the days of leg warmers, headbands and tainted Tylenol. It's bad enough that even if people still have a job, their employers are taking extensive belt tightening measures to make sure they are prepared for the worst.

One of the things being eliminated from families' budgets during this belt tightening is their cable or satellite hookup. With costs that can total over $100 a month, families are just not ready to dump that kind of cash on something they feel doesn't have any value. That doesn't mean they are going without television (especially after the DTV switchover) and turning to a simpler life of canning vegetables, making quilts, and attending square dances. Rather, they are switching off their hi-def flat screens, turning on their computer flat screens, and getting their TV fix over the Internet.

Yes, the continuing convergence of television and the Global Fat Spider Filament (World Wide Web, for the non-replaceable) seems to be picking up speed as the recession continues to bat us down like a cat playing with a catnip mouse. What's happening is people are beginning to realize that a majority of the content they are watching now is available, somewhere, on the Internet, whether it be a network site, one of the video sites like YouTube or the (despised by some) Hulu, or the various torrent sites. And, while there are monthly fees for Internet usage and hardware, most of the time they are half the cost of having both cable/satellite AND web access.

Doubt me? I knew you would, so look at this: in December, Hulu recorded its highest number of unique views with a total of 24 million hits. Joost, another content provider, racked up a nearly 900,000 hours of video hits in January, which was a 25% jump from the month before. All told, viewers in the U.S. watched a record 14.3 billion online videos in December -- a 13% gain from the month before. Granted, 14.2 billion of those videos were on porn sites, but it's still a HUGE number.

Now, as I have mentioned many times when talking about TV on the Internet, standard television viewing is not dead. As not everyone is adept at hooking their 42-inch LCD screen into their PC (myself included), they still rely on standard television when they have the money for it. There's also the broadband factor; not everyone in America has high speed Internet access. Add to these items the fact that not all TV series air on the Internet (like CBS' The Big Bang Theory ... stupid Paramount!) and you still have an imperfect TV-like environment for the Web.

Still, more and more studios and networks are airing their content online and through devices such as Netflix's video streaming box. So, while we can't say, again, that television is dead, we can certainly mention in confidence that a nail has been hammered into its coffin. How long it will take to complete the coffin will depend on government and industry funding for broadband, agreements between Internet companies and studios, and the willingness of the public to switch over. Which means that TV will be around for a long, long time.

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Jeff in Dallas

Someone above said that the PC doesn't give the same video quality. That's incorrect.

My PC is hooked into my big screen TV through HDMI cable and delivers full HD from my PC. Movie downloads are full blu-ray. In fact the picture quality is BETTER from my PC than from my cable box because the cable HD signals are compressed for broadcast. Ever notice how all HD signals are not equal? Some have digital compression artifacts etc. From my PC that is not an issue. I get the full uncompressed HD quality, unlike my cable broadcast.

And my PC sound card plugs into my Onkyo receiver for perfect surround sound.

I still have cable service because I love to watch live sports. I can put a PIP window from my cable box on top of the picture from my PC. For example, as I'm typing this message on my 42" TV, I have a PIP window from my cable box showing in the bottom right corner. I can adjust the size and position of the window so I can work and watch TV at the same time, and switch back-and-forth with the press of a button. The PIP window can be either from the cable box or from my PC.

This is not expensive. I already had the PC that I built for about $450. I added a $125 video card and a $40 sound card. Plus a $40 HDMI cable. Thats it.

I guess my main point is that PC video quality is BETTER than cable company video quality. Due to signal compression by the cable company.

Another benefit is that I watch movies on my PC before they are released. I watched Gran Torino and Batman before they even came out.

March 22 2009 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People rag on me for having rabbit ears and no cable, but cable is expensive and I'm hardly home to watch live TV. Netflix does me well for the weekends and almost every show is online the next day legally...a few not so legally. Yay.

February 09 2009 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you want to save money...just get an HD antenna and hook it to an HD ready set. No subscription fees and the quality of the video is superior to what you get on cable or on satellite...no compression...pure HDTV.

February 09 2009 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've become an HD snob, and so for me, nothing can replace the TV. Do I watch stuff on my computer? Sure. If I'm away from home, I use my Slingbox to tap into my PVR at home, and for certain shows there are no other options than downloading them (we don't get USA Network in Canada, so "Psych" and "Monk" have to be obtained illegally). But I'd much rather watch something in its full HD glory on the TV. Sure, I can connect my computer to the TV, but it's not the same quality.

Plus, I almost never watch TV as a sole task -- I'm usually working on the computer *while* I'm watching TV. So unless I bought something to give me a 3-monitor output, there's no desktop space to watch a video while also working.

Hopefully the cable and satellite providers start lowering costs, though, instead of raising them. Because otherwise, the non-HD snobs out there (which is most people) won't care where they watch their shows, as long as they can watch them.

February 09 2009 at 12:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Speaking the truth! The internet is the future of entertainment in every way. Check out my new project at http://makeasitcom.com -- I think it is where television should go! A show run by the fans and general public!

February 07 2009 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Mc

The first thing I did after getting laid off was return my HD DVR to Comcast. I use Hulu (and torrents) to get my TV fix now. Saved $80 a month.

February 07 2009 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When my roommate and I moved in together last summer we had plans on buying a tv. We had planned on buying one after we'd both saved some money, but after a while it stopped being something we thought about. We both have computers. We both watch all our shows online. And now the only time we even mention television is when we have friends over and are sitting in the living room.

TV's become moot at this point. Most of the shows I like are available to watch within minutes of ending on some site or the other, so I'm always watercooler ready the next day. And even if I'm not in a rush to watch, the internet has always been the best for being able to watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it, sans commercials.

February 07 2009 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Big John

That's it people, keep migrating to the Internet for TV and then in a couple years you ask why the number of channels starts dwindling. These networks stay afloat from cable subscriber fees - ad revenue is not enough.

February 07 2009 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Big John's comment

Aha! I still have my satellite. I also still have HBO, Cinemax and Showtime. I want it all, all the time, when I want it. I try my best to give up nothing. :-)

February 07 2009 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

99% of the channels can disappear. They're worthless.

February 07 2009 at 8:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have my computer in front of my TV so I can have my s-video cord out to my 42 incher and my computer surround stereo speakers are out here, as well. I love it. And don't forget that IMDB now has all of the hulu content plus movies! You can watch whole streaming movies online there. Great old crap and some new crap, too!

I love technology. I think they need to step up the integrated product placement commercials and then they can rely more on internet ratings and less on nielsen ratings.

February 07 2009 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't have cable. I use my Internets and have Netflix. The lowest package our cable company had was $26 for "basic" cable...channels 2-13 (and you have to think, only 4 of those are worth it). So $26 for four channels, basically. Not happening.

February 07 2009 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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