We all want what we don't have, but it doesn't mean it's better.
Channel surfing is what we've grown up with, but we're all on the look for something better. The question is, is a la carte programming the answer?
Before I dive in too deeply, I'd like to throw out a couple warnings about this post.
#1: I'm horrible at writing and would prefer to stick with my strength, which is numbers, but after listing to this weeks podcast I had to voice my opinion somehow. So please take it easy on me with the many writing errors that this will contain.
#2: I have a lot of opinions rolling around in my head so this might be a little unorganized and scattered, so bear with me.
Here we go.
The root of all of this stems from a common problem we have as human beings and is also the main feeding component of jealousy. People want what they don't have! We're constantly becoming bored with the items we have and then turn to lusting for something we don't have. A new car, a bigger house, a smarter phone, moving to a different city, a new pair of pants, losing weight, gaining weight, and the list just goes on and on.
With the current influx in technology, this is getting a lot worse. It seems like nothing is unobtainable in the tech industry and we quickly get bored with the technology we have, just to want to replace it with something not even on the market yet. We may not have a good answer for this nonexistent technology but we know that we'd be so much happier if we had it. It's the reason why our market it saturated with apps, phones, and other computing devises that will be outdated in a week for something the is slightly better. Leaving us feeling weighed down by this hunk of junk with a 1.2 GHz processor instead of the 1.4 that life is unlivable without. Even though this is the nature of the beast, it's also what pushes us to develop new technologies. Don't get me wrong, innovation is key and I love innovation.
Now you're probably asking yourself, "When does this tie into the content provider industry?" Well, lets address that. It's seems like the biggest complaint on The Verge lately is the lack of access to a great content providing service. With all the cable, satellite, IPTV and streaming services on the market today, it seems that none of them are what people want. It's a constant battle of this half of my service is great but the other half is lacking. I can list a ton of pros and cons for most of the services out there, but The Verge is doing a great job of that in their War for TV feature. Refer there for specific break downs.
So to address the title, "We all want what we don't have, but it doesn't mean it's better". "Give me a la carte TV shows and programming!" and "I only want to pay for the shows I watch!" is being shouted from the rooftops lately. Here's the problem with that. If cable service was originally distributed in an a la carte manor, the tone would be much different today. People would shout "Why can't I just pay one set price for an all-I-can-eat plan!" You probably think I'm crazy right now but bear with me. Lets take a look at digital music distribution. iTunes was all the rage early on and a great service. "Wow, you mean I don't have to buy an entire album just to get the 2 songs I want." It was an amazing service. Now lets fast forward to today. "Why should I pay $.99 per song?" "Why can't I pay one set price for an all-I-can-eat plan." Then comes along Spotify and Rdio. Same goes for broadband service. We don't want to pay for what we consume, we want to pay one set fee for all the unlimited surfing and streaming that our little hearts desire. Think about it. Cable might have went the same way. We might have been complaining about paying for one show at a time when all we want is to have the option to watch whatever we want and as much as we want. Cable and satellite work better in this model. How would you discover new shows? Are you willing to pay money for a new show that you're not sure will be good or not? I'd be willing to bet that people out there using services like Spotify or Rdio have discovered more new bands and music they like, compared to when they had to pay per song or per album. Just because we want a la carte programming doesn't mean that it's better.
Now this doesn't mean that the way programming is delivered now is the only way it'll work. I spent two years with no cable or satellite service and did all my watching on Netflix and Hulu. It was a great couple of years but it also had many downsides. Lack of content, dependability of internet connection and stilling paying for shows through xbox market. Now a little under a year ago I've added DirectTV to my home and I've been LOVING IT. I get access to any channel I may want to watch and get instant programming to my screen. No more annoying my wife with searching through menus on Netflix debating what to watch. I also get to just flip on programming to kill 10 minutes before I have to be somewhere. And live sports, oh the live sports, enough said. Now DirecTV does have its downsides as well, but the extra money I'm paying is allowing me access to unlimited programming. I love my DirecTV service for all the same reasons I love my Rdio subscription. I get to watch shows I normally wouldn't watch and I'm discovering new shows that normally wouldn't have been on my radar.
Now you may have noticed that I didn't bring pirating into the discussion, because me paying $60 a month is worth time not spent finding free content and figuring out how to deliver it to my TV in a simple manor. When I want to watch TV I want to escape the stresses of day to day life and I want it to be carefree.
To wrap this up, I don't believe the way content is delivered from our service providers are perfect. Cable companies have monopolies in their markets and the take advantage of it. They're boxes and user interfaces are extremely outdated and could use a major overhaul. If you ask me the problem is not with the programming and pay structure for unlimited viewing, but with the hardware hooking it to your TV. This is the area we need to focus on. Cable companies need to take a page of DirecTV's book with their hardware. Once again not perfect, but far ahead of any other service providers in the industry. It has a very nice HD user interface and boxes that look like something from the time era we're currently in. So if you take one thing from this, let it be this. Be careful what you wish for, because a la carte might NOT be the answer.