Fit to be Untied: Come Home to Free TV



In last week’s “Wall Street Journal”, Kevin Sintumuang wrote what was in effect a “Dear John” letter to cable TV. It’s a pretty bold statement to make, Kevin – so publicly ending a relationship like that. But it sounds like it’s been over for a while now; you probably felt like you should get through the Holiday special marathons before cutting it off so it wasn’t really awkward for everybody.

So cable expected too much and gave you too little. You commit to bills and tiers and packages for programming you’ll never need, maintaining an up and down vertical relationship of nothing but food, housewives, sharks and ghost hunters. To be fair, there’s more than just that. There’s nonstop poker, non-musical music networks, 24/7 channels of opinion posing as news, and enough DIY programs to make you think that gutting and rebuilding your house is something you can do in a weekend. And if you want more, like movies and many original programs, it’s going to cost you.

It’s no wonder that got old, fast.

So you move on to where you can get the same programs you’ll miss on cable - to Hulu, Netflix, and maybe even DVD or Blu-Ray. But you’re still paying for the same diluted programming that way, or at least delaying your satisfaction. All you’re gaining is a line-item veto on the programming you’ve already marginalized, but will still have to purchase. It’s not cutting the cord as much as unplugging it from one place and plugging it in somewhere else. These things are just enablers, Kevin. Give yourself more credit. You deserve better.

When you’re ready to get into a more lasting relationship, broadcast television will be there for you.

In the world of broadcast TV, all of the Housewives are still Desperate, the food stays in Hell’s Kitchen, and you’ll see so many more live sports – the major sports, not the JV version – that you’ll forget that you haven’t seen a ghost hunter or a shark marathon since you cut the cord. And yes, there is the local news that you found you can’t be without. Because let’s face it, Kevin, you know a good thing when you watch it.

And let’s not forget how social broadcast is –we’ll be dancing or singing at least once or twice a week. And there’s the theater of the world-class dramas and a great new generation of comedies. It’s OK to feel again Kevin. Enjoy the healing power of laughter that broadcast has developed for you, and for all of those other modern families who feel the same way you do.

You said it yourself, with almost a hint of foreshadowing in your words: most of what we watch is available free, over the air, and in high definition. As you point out, breaking up with cable doesn’t mean that you give up available cutting-edge television technology. You mentioned Channel Master as a “cable-like interface,” that gives you a DVR, program guides, and access to streaming and VOD. But there are other stand-alone DVR products that don’t come from a cable provider. For example, Tivo works just fine without cable.

But hey, if you’re looking for a new relationship with your television content, you will probably want a social life, too – getting out of the house now and then to share some special time away. With Dyle for smartphone and other portable devices, you can get free, over-the-air TV content delivered directly to your device, all without burdening your data plan. And ConnecTV will give you an opportunity to open your viewing up to a social network with your second screen.

And so, Kevin, as you find yourself picking up the pieces of your broken cable television relationship, remember all the great times that you had with broadcast television – and will have to come. Because with broadcast television, it won’t take any coax-ing to make you feel good about your television viewing all over again.

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