With the recent release of Sling TV and Playstation Vue, nearly all channels available on basic cable are now available via online services, making it wholly possible to cut your cable connection and still receive the majority of the content you had under your previous provider. There is a significant caveat, however, and that is price.
The crux of the matter is that there is no single uniform service that provides everything that cable/satellite provides. Therefore, to get every channel you previously had, you have to pay for multiple services all of which add up to a price significantly higher than your previous cable bill. Coupled with additional service providers that offer original content (your Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, and Amazon) and that price skyrockets.
As base services, neither Playstation Vue nor Sling TV are able to cover the gamut of a TV viewers average content needs. The parcelling off of networks between services, including sports channels, childrens’ networks, news broadcasters, and beyond, create narrow laneways where only some content is available for a set price. Playstation Vue, for instance, has more than double Sling TVs offerings but also comes at more than double the price. At $50 for 60 channels, Playstation Vue prices itself out of the market against even your standard basic cable package that offers normally 150+ channels for around $40/month. 60 channels is not bad, but it still misses key demos by not including ESPN, Disney, and the entire family of ABC channels. To receive those, you would also need to have Sling which increases your monthly bill to $70/month, once again only to meet what your cable provider gives you for a significantly cheaper price.
And yet even under these circumstances, you still have to pay extra to receive your HBO, Netflix and Amazon Prime original programs. The addition of the three brings your monthly service price up to well over $100 a month.
It is therefore important to take all of these steps with a grain of salt. We are still in the early days of internet television, but what is most disappointing is the adoption of cable company models with these services. You may want only a select few channels or a select few programs from a specific channel, and as a result, the majority of what comes out of your pocket is going to channels and programs that you will never watch. Basically cable!
If rumours pan out, Apple is also reportedly getting into the TV market themselves around 25 channels including staples like ABC, CBS, and FOX and will reportedly cost $30 or $40 a month. It remains to be seen however what kind of content, pricing and delivery the Apple will actually provide.
The dream, therefore, is for a Spotify-like service for television. A service where you pay a monthly subscription to watch the programming you want at any given time, including live/same-day releases. That includes sports and news. Netflix is close, however, due to licensing agreements and such, content is continuously changing on the service. Programs there one day may be gone the next. Not to mention your inability to watch live sports or news. Say goodbye to the World Cup, Olympics, or Super Bowl (unless you want to pay individual subscriptions to the NFL, FIFA, and the OIC for streaming online).
Content makers need to realize that they are holding on to an outdated mode of broadcasting that goes completely counter to how people want to absorb media. And while we all want to cut our chords and say goodbye to cable providers forever, as long as the content that we want is so spread out across so many different services, we are forced to accept that the easiest and cheapest mode of delivery remains having cable and maybe a Netflix/Amazon subscription (that or less legitimate forms of media viewing).
One final point – Geoblocking has to go. Like cable, geoblocking is an outdated model. Originally based around regional distribution rights and marketing, online media delivery has made this essentially useless. Everyone is receiving the same news and from the same sources. We are global consumers of content, and yet the current system of geoblocking the dissemination of content counters that concept. Hindering the global release of content only creates a greater presence of piracy, something content creators do not want.
In summary we are getting there, but these initial baby steps are incredibly weak. Maybe one day, the cord-cutters dream of a relatively universal on-demand service will come to be. Until then we need to show these new services that we do not want to substitute cable with a weaker and yet more expensive version of the same model. I hate cable companies as much as anyone but for now they still remain the cheapest and easiest model of media delivery.
Follow Tom on Twitter @thomaskagar