New Shoes in the Rain

Monday, May 1, 2017

Seeing it on TV

It's Monday, everyone.  Which means, here in central Kentucky, that it's raining again.  At least the rain bookended the weekend, which allowed a steamy round of golf Saturday and grilled dinner last night!

I come to you this morning prepared to discuss several aspects of the television industry.  There have been items mentioned in the national media, and locally as well, that made me want to share some of this information.

I'll start with ESPN, the self-proclaimed "worldwide leader in sports," a phrase co-opted from ABC Sports, which used to make the same claim.  Last week ESPN very publicly thinned its workforce in announcing layoffs of many recognizable on-air personalities like Andy Katz, Jayson Stark, Ed Werder, Trent Dilfer, Jay Crawford and a number of others, as well as a number of writers who seldom, if ever, appeared on camera.

ESPN, and its parent The Walt Disney Company, took this action after a workforce reduction just a year or so ago.  They indicated that this was in response to changing viewing patterns, which is probably true.

ESPN was a neat-o thing for me when I first had access to cable TV back in the 80s.  Why, the very idea that there was a channel that had all of the highlights of all of the games on THAT NIGHT!  Of course, now, virtually ALL of the games in EVERY sport are on somewhere, so I saw what I wanted to see already.

Thus the changing viewing patterns.

That leads me to my next point.  Our local newspaper featured a story yesterday about customers of our local cable TV company, now called Spectrum following the acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications, finding that channels went dark suddenly because Spectrum determined that these customers weren't paying enough for their programming.  Worth mentioning that in Kentucky cable TV is controlled by the state's Public Service Commission, regulated just like any other utility like electric or gas or water.  And a single entity is allowed to provide service in any geographic area, so there's no competition.

I experienced something less jarring but no easier to accept recently, when our overall Spectrum bill jumped about twenty dollars from one month to the next.  In our case it was a revision of fees for the rental and USE of a cable box/DVR combination.  Yes, a charge to rent the box, and a separate charge to USE it to record programs.  I know, defies logic.

Just as the man who was heavily quoted throughout the newspaper article, I called Spectrum in hopes of negotiating a somewhat better deal, which used to be common with Time Warner and its predecessors, but now their approach is to explain what services can be removed in order to achieve a financial objective.

I left my package as is for now, opting to leave it alone.  Eventually, Spectrum will begin monitoring and either capping or throttling Internet usage, so until then at least I can stream and browse endlessly.

My final set of comments regard the traditional television networks.  Every year, my wife and I review new shows to see if there's anything we'd find to be worth watching.  And every year we wait to see if the new shows we've been watching will return in the fall schedule.  I don't know this, but it seems to me that the networks used to be a little more definitive about shows that were cancelled vs. shows that were returning.  Now it seems that shows just sort of fade away, never to be seen again.

Let's remember, the original "Star Trek" television series lasted barely three years, but has lived on in syndicated reruns, sequels, spin-offs and movies since the late 60's.  So you have to believe that the folks who decide on these things are simply guessing and hoping they're right.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm heading to my treadmill for some exercise, where I'll use my tablet to stream Netflix to pass the time while walking.


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