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In a Flyover State: Diary of a Cord-Cutter

I want to sit on my couch, press one button, and have my huge TV kick out 37,000 channels of mostly unwatchable crap in beautiful HD. My friend on the other hand, thought differently. 5/09/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

So Nielsen came out with a study last week that says the percentage of homes with a TV declined for the first time in 20 years. They gave some possible reasons, ranging from the DTV transition to the economy to the contestants on ‘American Idol' being pretty boring this season since Pia Toscana wuz robbed.

But the other thing they mentioned was “Cord-Cutters,”
which are people who had a TV service and got
rid of it. That of course should not be confused with
“Cord-Nevers”—young people who never buy a TV
service in the first place. Nor should it be confused
with “Chord Overstreet,” which is what young people
drool over when they should be reading a damn book
and not growing up stupid.

I understand the Cord-Never thing; kids growing
up now just don’t see the TV as the primary source
of electronic entertainment the way many of us did
growing up. TV is like an overpriced drug that we as
an industry need to hook them on as kids. We should
probably call on Big Tobacco for some pointers.

But the Cord-Cutter trend is tougher to define. Granted,
the economy stinks (c’mon, you really see signs of a
recovery anywhere but on Wall Street?), so that plays a
big part. There are more ways to cobble together a video
entertainment package through connected TVs, or outright
online. And social media takes up a lot of the time
we once spent plopped on the couch watching old John Hughes movies and thinking about that girl we never
had the guts to ask out. Wow, did I just say that out loud?
How’s that midlife crisis treating you there, Grossman?

Whatever the reasoning, I can’t imagine falling into
Camp Cord-Cutter. I want to sit on my couch, press
one button, and have my big-ass TV kick out 37,000
channels of mostly unwatchable crap in beautiful HD.
While my wife brings me my dinner and my kids shine
my shoes. And I want to be 6’4”, thin and have hair—
which has a better chance of happening than the thing
with the wife and kids.

flyover_chart.jpg

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was talking to one of my
best friends from back in beautiful Minneapolis, a guy
I grew up with, have gotten into plenty of trouble with,
and with whom I share a lot in common. He has a wife
and two kids, works for a successful media company,
likes sports and has questionable taste in several respects.

So I was shocked when he casually mentioned to me
that he was dumping his cable service. Yes, one of my
best friends had just come out…as a cord-cutter. I felt
like one of those people who grew up next door to a serial
killer and has to do one of those, “I had no idea, he
seemed like such a normal kid” interviews after the fact.

But the bottom line is, it happens. For real. My friend
has a good gig, but he also has a wife and two kids and
plenty of bills and was sick of paying for a ton of channels
he never watched. He says he was running out of
new shows he liked; for instance, he’s an ad exec who
says he never knows when Mad Men is actually coming
back every year (I didn’t have the heart to tell him…).
He told me if there was a la carte, sign him back up, but
not for cable in its current form.

He said canceling was interesting. First they tried to
give him more for the same price, then they tried to
keep him subscribed to a cheaper package, and then
when they realized he was actually serious about canceling,
they treated him like he was crazy.

But he kept a high-speed Internet subscription only
(which he may abandon for free Wi-Fi provided by the
city), then went out and grabbed a Roku box, a DTV antenna
and subscriptions to Hulu Plus and Netflix. And
suddenly, he was on the other side of the statistics chart.

He misses seeing programs like The Daily Show day
and date, and would like to see more baseball, though
the Minnesota Twins being awful has helped. He says
not being able to watch Monday Night Football will be
odd, and is wrestling with whether he would watch an
illegal stream of it, knowing full well (as he puts it) that
it will be from some guy in the Ukraine holding a flip
camera in front of his TV.

So he’ll see how it goes. He says the test will be in the
middle of the winter in frigid Minnesota. He figures if
he and the wife are still talking in the aftermath of not
having cable, the experiment went OK.

I wish him luck, but can’t see joining him anytime
soon. I have a fancy TV that can get Netflix and all that
stuff directly into it. I have a nice iPad that gets more
and more programming every day. I suppose I could
buy any TV-related toy on the market and expense it or
write it off on Uncle Sam.

But call me old-fashioned, or just old: that just ain’t
happening. My definition right now of “TV Everywhere”
is turning up the game loud enough to hear it when I go
to the bathroom or to get a beer from the fridge. So as
for cord-cutting altogether, count me out.

September
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