How Verizon Is Killing Their Own BusinessPosted: December 31, 2012
So I finally saw the finale of “The Voice” the other day, and I’d like to start by saying congratulations to Cassadee Pope. I picked her as an early favorite to win, although she wasn’t necessarily my favorite. I liked Terry McDermott, although he had an off night in the finale, and Nicholas David was also very good. Amanda Brown also caught my attention with “Dream On” and “Here I Go Again“, and I personally thought she went home too soon.
So why did it take me almost two weeks to get around to watching the finally? Well, that would be because I watch it On Demand. Specifically because I watch it with Verizon On Demand. I wanted to be very clear about this, because I don’t know for sure that all the vitriol I am about to unleash is applicable to every cable and satellite provider, although past experience with other systems would lead me to believe it is. Still, I want to be as fair as possible.
Once upon a time, I loved On Demand. It was just like watching TV, only without the commercials. I could also pause, rewind, fast forward, anything I wanted. Sure, I was paying a small fortune for access to these features, but I was willing to pay it, because what I was getting made it worthwhile. It was like having a DVR that I didn’t have to set up (although we have one of those too, I just don’t use it).
Then something went wrong. First it was little things. The pause button started timing out on programs. Annoying, but hey, it happens with DVDs sometimes. But then we couldn’t just restart where we left off, we would have to restart from the beginning. And then suddenly we can’t use features like fast forward. Uh-oh, this is ominous. Before you can say “screw the customer”, we’re getting commercials in our On Demand programming.
Oh, and the price of our cable bill keeps going up. But that’s kind of like death and taxes.
So this extra service that we’re paying for (a little more every month, it seems) is getting less valuable every month. Now, some of you might say, “why not just use the DVR? You said you have one, right?” Well, here’s how they screw us on that one, too. You need a separate box for every room, and we’re already paying extra just to have a basic cable box in our bedroom, which is where my wife and I watch TV. So we have to pay extra to watch TV when we want, and we have to pay extra to watch it where we want, AND we have to pay extra to watch without commercials, which we thought we were doing in the first place.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that TV isn’t free. All entertainment comes at a price, and that entertainment needs to be paid for. Broadcast TV (which traditionally came free to people’s home via, well, broadcast) was paid for by advertising. But cable (and it’s bastard stepchild, satellite) is not paid for exclusively through advertising. In fact, I’d like to know exactly what percentage of it is paid for each year in advertising revenue, because I know I’m paying a hefty sum just to get access to the most basic channels. (I’ll gladly pay the extra for HBO and Showtime, thanks.)
I’d like to say that they get away with this because they have a monopoly, and there is some truth to that. But there’s a deeper truth to it: they get away with it because I put up with it. I keep coming back for the “higher” internet speeds (read “please don’t choke my downloads”), I keep coming back for the “On Demand television” (none of the convenience, all of the commercials), I keep coming back for the crappy service and the “customer service line” whose responses are less “how can I help you” and more “sounds like your problem”.
I used to buy entire seasons of shows on DVD and watch them that way. Sure, it put me way behind everyone else in the office, running from water coolers with my ears covered screaming “NO SPOILERS! NO SPOILERS!” for months at a time, but it’s getting to that point again anyway. At least back then I didn’t have to watch commercials in the meantime. I’d consider switching to watching TV on the internet, but they’re usually a season behind AND have commercials, plus I still have Verizon internet. So if anyone has a better idea I’m all ears.
Until then, don’t tell me who won Season 4 of “The Voice” until at least a month after it’s over.