How are you getting your entertainment fix?
A couple of days ago, I was busy sitting at my desk racking up email receipts, cross checking my bank balance with my expenditures, and collecting a large amount of flop sweat as I sit trying to figure out how to free up some money in these tough economic times. And as my belt continually cinched tighter, I was forced to look at my one frivolous expenditures and weigh the pros and cons of having it; TV, or more specifically, a cable subscription versus my internet television subscriptions.
I personally use Cox Communications for my cable service, but admittedly I also subscribe to Netflix’s online streaming service and Hulu Plus. But as I sat there, wishing that I possessed that magic Mega Millions ticket from a week earlier, I decided to evaluate my entertainment options. One had to go.
Hulu Plus costs roughly $8.00 a month. With that subscription, they offer many of the main network’s programming, usually a day after it originally aired on television. Some programs, though, are not available until eight days after the original airing, which leaves me with 192 hours of dodging any mention of that program so as to not be spoiled. On a positive note, I can access some programs’ entire episode runs for far less than the price of the season DVD in my local store.
Hulu does have its drawbacks. Besides NBC, ABC, and Fox, many other networks are far less represented, or even represented at all. I, for one, find many of my favorite television shows to be on those unrepresented networks. In fact, for me personally, I only watch four shows available on Hulu: Fringe, Glee, Parks and Recreation, and Community, which accounts for 130 minutes of my viewing per week.
Netflix offers season runs of many popular shows, including 2 of the shows I mentioned above. And at $9.00 a month, I find it valuable to have the movie selection that Netflix offers, which alone pays for itself in rental fees. But since we are talking in television terms, here in lies the rub. Netflix offers a wide range of programming on different networks, much of which is not covered by Hulu. A few that come to mind? Dr. Who, The League, Weeds, The Walking Dead, and more. Premium cable shows are rarely found on Hulu, but often found on Netflix.
The major drawback to Netflix is release time. Netflix often releases the season all at once, and usually after airing on cable. Popular shows, such as the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy have long completed their season run and are usually found to be available as a season DVD set before they are introduced into Netflix’s queue. I’m not sure I could do the accurate math to calculate the hours I would spend avoiding every mention of the plot of those shows, nor would I want to.
I could mention the iTunes season subscription service, but the cost far outweighs my desire for instant satisfaction. In fact, the more I think about it, iTunes could cost me a paycheck alone in viewing habits.
As for the competition, Cable is, well, cable. Cox Communications costs me in the ballpark of $70.00 a month, not including my high-speed internet service. More importantly, cable offers me every program that I have mentioned. I can schedule myself around my entertainment, and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing a program that I have been wanting to see.
Wait. Did I just say I can schedule myself around my entertainment?
Cable forces you to view programming on their schedule. People, today, often operate their lives completely out of the 9 to 5 template. In conflict to the 1950’s, when families gathered in front of the television after their highly organized and scheduled days, this generation is far more sporadic with their time. It’s easier to watch programming on your own time, and not on the network’s time. DVR’s have made it far more convenient for people to be entertained when it fits the best into their day.
And let’s not forget commercials. Now, I realize that commercial revenue provides a large majority of funding for networks. Commercials have even made their way into Hulu’s programming. But honestly. How many of us fast forward through a commercial break on the DVR? I for one, am guilty as charged. Let’s face it…with the exception of the Super Bowl, most of us hate commercials.
I’m just a regular guy, and I realize that many people will have different preferences when it comes to television viewing. Cable, with its higher price, longer commercial breaks, and immediacy may or may not be better than Internet programming, with its cheaper price, more selective programming, and longer wait.
Money could be a deciding factor for most, and to be honest, internet television is far less expensive than cable. But for those of us who like to be socially current with our entertainment, the margin of the price difference is worth the instant satisfaction we gain. And let’s face it, even in times of economic challenges like the one we are facing now, television does offer us an opportunity to escape the reality we may be in. And even more stressing is the problem of choosing one over the other. Because even with their glaring drawbacks, cable service and internet programming subscriptions together create a very convenient way to have our entertainment desires fulfilled at any time, providing you have the luxury of having both. It’s a formidable tag team which is very hard to separate.
And that’s why I’m right back to where I began.