Out of Time (Warner)

Kill your TV has been a shibboleth since the 1960s. We pulled the plug on our Time-Warner Cable service this week. It will not be missed.

TWC is raising rates (again). The service has been wretched since December 2009 when it changed its signal. Before, our QAM tuner-equipped television received HD signals. After TWC's "upgrade" local HD stations vanished along with several analog channels (Weather, ABC Family, others). Remaining analog channels now have grainy reception with occasional freezes and image glitches. A weird audio glitch intermittently distorts sound on all channels, causing a wAVEring UP-and-dOwn eFFect. "Glee" and "American Idol" songs sometimes sound like cats yowering.

The basic-plus cable service price is approaching $60, and TWC wants an additional $10/month for an HD converter cable box. The cable box is just a tuner, not a DVR, and requires integration with our TiVo. We'd be able to watch/record only a single program at a time, instead of watch one, record two as we do now.

We could switch to a complete package. TWC sells tv + phone + Internet service ($120/month) but we already have mobile phones, Skype, and Google Voice. And my buddy EM has the TWC package. His phone and Internet were down for a nearly a week in October and he continues to suffer service outages.

Next we considered our viewing habits.  We watch 4 network shows, a couple of cable TV shows, and sometimes the news. All shows eventually become available online usually within a week and typically the next day of first airing. 'Net availability has replaced TiVo. Movies and premium television series stream from Netflix's HUMONGOUS catalog through our Wii or computers in full HDMI or VGA glory. Our only realtime TV is USC Football, and that's over, thankyouverymuch NCAA. And "Deadliest Warrior" replaced Max with another host. So ... Time-Warner cable TV offers ... what?

Well, it does offer a $60/month bill. $60/month is $720/year. That amount buys two $25 AT&T data plans or four $15 data plans or will upgrade my AT&T U-verse data rate and buy some data plans. My phone gets more face time than cable TV via TWC. Hmmmmm.

Bye-bye TWC. Hello cbs.com, Hulu, and all the online content in the universe.

The collateral damage is to TiVo. We have an unlimited, perpetual license. We've pretty much sucked all the juice out of it since we bought the license for $200 almost ten years ago. When the Series II TiVo gets better at handling 'Net downloads and a broader catalog of services -- or an upgrade to a Series III lets us transfer our perpetual license, we'll use it. For now, sad TiVo is sad.

As for realtime sports, that's why you offer to bring the beer. $60/month buys lots of beer. Drink it with friends.


Carl said...

This transition has been predicted for decades, so are you behind the curve, or ahead? :-)

FWIW, we never had cable - just a TiVo (Premiere now) on an antenna, and there are a *lot* of stations in Long Beach - most in HD. We use it to watch older shows from Netflix too.

- Carl

K. Geiger said...

Depends: behind, as services are available via packaged consumer products like a Roku Boxee, Apple TV, or Google TV. Ahead but only b/c it's built entirely from commodity services and parts, which is the market direction.

We could also get shows via torrents but we won't. It's unfair to copyright holders and content producers and kills their incentive to produce entertainment.