Monday, March 7, 2016

All This And High School Volleyball Too

So, after five days wasted not watching my newly installed cable (or as I like to look at it, around $2.50) I finally had time to get her on the road, open her up, and take a spin. I switched to HDMI3, turned on the little black box and started channel surfing.

First impression: Look, it's Channel 2! OHMYGOD why is it so blocky? Let's try Channel 4. Same thing. I'm used to the raw HD feeds and cable is too, because that's what it uses as its first step before it compresses the signal to send it to you, the viewer. You might not notice if you get all your TV through cable, but it's really obvious when you compare. I kept changing all the way through the channels and eventually I found that there is another set of the same local channels starting the the 1200s, which looks better. Maybe down sampled from 1080p to 720p?  Who knows? The 1200s are in a slightly different order than they would be on the "dial" and for that matter, a different order than at the lower numbered versions. Why? WHY? Why.

Of course this is kind of a moot point because as far as I'm concerned, most high-def TV doesn't interest me. My viewing habits have developed into a kind of mid-century broadcast museum, and given the choice between an episode of Gotham and an Adam West BATMAN marathon I'll hit the marathon every time. And more likely I'll screw 'me both and look for public domain monster movies at Thus my next explorations involved finding this fun little subcarriers, all the stations that fill their programming days with 60's-70's sitcoms and adventure shows, like MeTV and COZI and The Works. The TWC package that I subscribed to, though, doesn't carry most of those.

On the plus side, there are a few things it offers that I can't get normally. 20 local radio stations, for example. Local sports is another. Hyper-local. Okay, it's actually high school girl's Volleyball. Probably interesting to people with high school girls - actually just THOSE high school girls.

I kinda also got fed up with having to deal with another remote. And that's why I looked into the box I already have, my Roku, to see if TWC has an app. It does! There's also one for the iPad. Unfortunately, the Roku app isn't licensed to play the radio stations, and there's no way to punch in a channel number, so you have to scroll through EVERYTHING to get to the channel you want.

As for the iPad app, it's better than the Roku in the sense that you can just jab your finger at a programming grid and there's your show. This seemed promising but I discovered that once you're out of the house, only two channels will display and they're both Home shopping channels. If my apartment wasn't a studio where you can see the TV from bed and the kitchen, I might have more uses for the iPad app.

But it IS a studio, Blanche. It is.

I'm a little long cutting to the chase here but you see what's coming - I determined that basic cable offered less channels and more complexity, all for only $14 more a month if you're smart and $24 if you're not. So this week I unhooked the whole magillah and returned it to TWC, and I'm happy to report that they accepted it and canceled my service with very little trouble.

Obviously the lowest tier of cable service is worthless but even once you start climbing and getting the 200 or 300 channel packages with the DVR it's a LOT more money than it's worth. If you pro-rate how much you're paying to watch each show, you'll surely opt for something else, or take up reading instead.

The internet has disrupted a lot of business models and Cable Television is certainly one of those. First broadcasting was eroded by cable, and now the internet is chewing away at them both. I don't know if it was ever EASY to make money in the TV business, but look for it to get a lot harder in the future. And look for both of these traditional models to shrink to quaint ghosts of their former selves.

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