by Daniel B. Simmons
Long time readers of Thrive Detroit may remember the 2012 article entitled Do You Really Need Cable TV. In it I explore the pros and cons of “cutting the cord” and embracing an all-digital, online solution for your entertainment needs. In the few years since, the variety of devices and services offered has expanded; however just as before, some caveats apply. If you are someone who likes to be in control of their media, and are willing to make a couple of sacrifices in the process then now is as great a time as any to make the transition.
Many people go into the search for cord-cutting options with the objective of saving money on their monthly cable bill. While in some cases this may be one added benefit of going digital, those who have made the transition sometimes do so for other reasons. What many articles fail to mention, my own included, is that going to an all-digital, on-demand solution for your media is in some ways fundamentally different from the traditional TV watching experience.
TiVo and other DVRs started, companies like Netflix, Roku, and Amazon have expanded upon this. The idea of watching what you want, when you want, without commercials is an appealing proposition, provided you have some idea what you want to watch. As someone who sits firmly between today’s Millenials and “Generation-Y” that preceded them, I remember a time when channel surfing was the de-facto method of finding hidden television gems. It was also another way to kill time on a boring Sunday afternoon.
Netflix and Amazon Prime now have a variety of shows that rival even the highest tier of cable packages, filtering through the thousands of television shows and movies can sometimes be overwhelming. This make viewing less of a passive experience and necessitates that the viewer actively choose what they want to watch. In this way the abundance of on demand content can be a double edge sword. The sheer variety is great, but it can also be somewhat intimidating for people used to just turning on the TV and having their programming curated for them.
Netflix and Amazon both have sophisticated recommendation algorithms to help mitigate this, but for those who grew up in a pre-Netflix era it doesn’t quite have the same feel as rapidly switching channels until something catches your attention.
This may be a small price to pay for having your favorite movies and TV shows available at any time and on a staggering number of devices. Many of the most popular video on demand services can be viewed on screens of all sizes. Most so-called ‘Smart TVs’ built within the last year or two even have the ability to go online and access Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other services with little setup required. While the major cable companies have long been incorporating on demand packages and second screen experiences in their services, the usability and number of restrictions required to view your content the way you please is quite frankly light years behind the internet based competition. Cutting the cord isn’t necessarily a sacrifice.