Wednesday, August 21, 2013

CBS Blackout on Time Warner Cable

image from here
For the last few weeks we've been affected by CBS pulling its programing from our cable provider, Time Warner Cable. As anyone affected can attest, it's been frustrating to be caught in the middle of a fight that the customers can do absolutely nothing about. For me, part of the frustration stems from how expensive cable bills are -- including internet access, ours runs about $130 a month! To pay such a huge amount of money and be denied service for even a tiny portion of it is quite wrong, no matter who is to blame. And now The New York Times has reported that we can expect to continue to be denied CBS programming right through the fall. Based on other blackouts, it is likely that our cable bill will go up when CBS finally returns its programing.

But honestly, has it been that bad to not have CBS? Yes, I prefer to start my Sundays with CBS Sunday Morning, and the blackout has also affected my usual Sunday evening routine of listening to Meet the Press and Face the Nation on the DVR while doing other projects, but overall, I haven't missed it too much.

For the first few years I lived in the city, I had no cable. At first, my roommate and I used a TV antenna to get a few channels, and basically had the choice of CNN and re-runs of Friends. Later, we just got rid of the television altogether. With so much to do in the city, plus a Netflix subscription, I never missed it.

When the blackout started, I didn't think of using a TV antenna. I have no idea why it didn't occur to me, but we took the route many Time Warner customers have chosen, and started using Aereo to watch some CBS programing. I know so many people who do not use a cable provider, choosing instead to use other options, but it always seemed too complicated to explore. Thanks to the blackout, however, we've been giving Aereo a try, and so far it's been a good experience. At $8 a month, it has even made me start thinking about getting rid of our cable altogether. Making a move away from an ever increasing cable bill would not only save us money, but would also be an action frustrated customers can take in response to the blackout -- both CBS and Time Warner would loose money if we make the switch.

Unlike my last experience without cable, the much-improved options like Netflix, Amazon, and Aereo could provide us with all the programing we want, and even using a combination of these services would be less expensive than our cable bill. Because of the huge amount of money wasted on "the idiot box," every financial advisor will suggest getting rid of cable to anyone who needs to cut back on spending -- I'm beginning to think it might be a smart move for us as well.

So while the blackout has been frustrating, it may turn out to be a money-saving blessing in disguise.

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