It’s the end of the month, also known as the time to pay some bills. The end of the month rarely ceases to amaze, but there are exceptions. About two months ago, per the usual at every month’s end, the time arrived to pay the bills. Rent? Check. Electricity? Check. Phone bill? Check. Car insurance? Check (well, that comes out automatically on the 1st of every month, but you get the point).
Next, the cable+internet bill. After typing in the cable’s official website, and clicking “Pay Bill,” the monthly total left me absolutely floored: $183.99. In a state of disbelief and boiled-over fury, I paid the bill first (because no matter how upset one gets, there’s still an obligation to pay what you owe) and immediately called the cable company second. That recent bill was the day when the hijinx would stop, the robbery would end, and the proverbial shit was going to hit the fan. After being on a brief hold, the exchange with the customer service representative at the local cable company went a little something like this:
“How much would the monthly bill be if cable is taken off and internet is kept?”
“Let’s see, sir.” *customer service reps punches keys on a keyboard smoothly for a few seconds* “Okay, sir. Your monthly bill would go from $177 a month to $65.”
“It would go to WHAT????? Oh, that cable’s got to go. Get rid of that now.”
The exchange continued peacefully, yet animated, for around 15-20 seconds. There was the occasional rant about paying $170+ a month for cable and internet when, maybe, 10 channels are regularly viewed while the other 190 channels were absolutely useless. Despite the rant, there was no profanity used which is a direct reflection of both parties involved, especially since the customer service rep didn't offer a request of something stupid like adding a feature “to enhance the experience and services provided,” which would have not only increased the monthly bill, but also caused me to pull out the chopper in unbridled anger and fury.
While the customer service agent was ready to accommodate the cancellation request, she had an ace-in-the-hole. She put me on the phone with someone who may as well been The Wolf from Pulp Fiction. This person must be on earth solely to talk cable customers who are on the verge of leaving back on the ledge by concocting a combination of savings, sorcery and other shenanigans. By the time it was all said and done, the next bill was cut in half, the bill following that is $60 less than what was paid this morning, and they were keeping a customer. It was all very weird.
For the last several months, there has been some serious soul-searching about the need for cable TV at the house, especially with the presence of streaming sporting events online. Live streams are useful on the road or at a place when a great game is on and no TV is readily available. Super Bowl 50 was streamed online for the fourth consecutive year (1), and while an internet connection is needed to stream, being able to stream the Super Bowl helps people who don’t have cable or a TV to watch the game. People could simply watch the stream on their phone or another portable device.
The versatility of the WatchESPN app certainly made doing away with cable a feasible option. After a while, it looked like cable TV (something that was once considered an absolute must) started to look more like an addition, a hindrance, a thorn in the ass, simply because the cost was starting to outweigh the benefit. The problem is while a stream is cool, streams still tend to lag behind the actual time of an event which can have an effect on being able to interact with people across social media streams in real time. When Chef Curry goes off for a barrage of threes against some hapless opponent, social media explodes. For people watching on cable, they are able to react on social media immediately. At worst, there might be a slight delay if the telecast is in HD, but that’s about it. For folks watching on a live stream, the issues can range from a delayed connection to the connection skipping or simply just being behind, and in the way that events take place on social media, a delay of a few seconds can be the difference between enjoying the moment and being late to the party.
Regardless of potentially being late to the party, the savings in money alone may constitute people making the switch. It’s hard to justify paying $50 to get in the club at 11:15 when you can simply get there 30 minutes earlier and get in for half that, if not free. For some people, the comfort of getting there when they get there outweighs the bread spent. For some fans, watching sports in real time outweighs the cost savings of watching on a stream with the issues that come from watching games on the internet. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the presence of live streams when everything from the Super Bowl to Sports Illustrated revealing its swimsuit issue (2) can be streamed live and doesn’t have to be watched at some Super Bowl party or on the couch.
Another example of live streaming changing the way fans consume sports is baseball’s implementation of a streaming video app that allows fans to pay $85 a season to have access to stream their favorite team’s games for an entire season (3). Something like this is perfect for some of the homies who love baseball and will literally watch all 162 games in a season. There has never been a desire to watch that much baseball on this end, especially the dog days of summer, but just the option gives fans a chance to get away from the TV and watch games from wherever their hearts, minds, and souls desire. WWE has a live stream app, and they already know to take $9.99 out of the account every month due to being able to watch every wrestling pay-per-view, past or present. Hell, the only reason the couch wasn’t be occupied for WrestleMania 32 is because the event was at Jerry’s World this year, and it provided an opportunity to go to Arlington and do hoodrat things with friends.
In the words of the great Irish philosopher, Conor McGregor, it’s all about options (4). For sports fans, viewing options are aplenty. Gone are the days of being relegated to the couch or the bed or your favorite chair at the house and sitting in front of a TV with the girth of a Hoshitoshi (5) or the diminutiveness of The Bitch 200. Live streaming gives fans options to watch games from wherever they are. Live streaming is giving fans options to take everything in and do so however they want.