Update on streaming and cutting cords
I saw several articles yesterday on a new feature for the CBS All Access service where the authors seemingly saw a need to denigrate the entire service. The authors all seemed to be missing the boat about what it, and other similar efforts by the old-school TV networks, can and should do with cord cutters. Without exception they all seemed to be written by people who’d spent no time separated from the cord at all, much less changed their media consumption by actually cutting it. With a bit of frustration at the quality of the articles and a bit of pride over how we’ve changed since the beginning of the year, it seemed like time to update our Apple TV/Roku experience here and throw our perspectives into the mix.
We have an Apple TV in the living room, and two Rokus elsewhere in the condo. We currently have paid subscriptions to Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu and CBS All Access. We also regularly view content via the free apps from PBS, ABC, NBC, CW, Red Bull Sports, CBS News, ABC News, Crackle and probably a few others. We subscribed to the Tribeca Shortlist app for a while, but since it lapsed when my card expired and I didn’t notice for several weeks, it doesn’t seem to have been that important to us and is now gone. Also departed is Sling, which we never really liked but had for a month to get NBC live Olympics coverage.
Even before we cut DirecTV out of our lives, we seldom watched live programming – regularly scheduled shows were DVRed for our convenience. Now that same programming is stored on other people’s servers and accessible throughout Casa instead of residing in a little hard drive under the TV, and limited to that one TV. We lost a few fringe networks’ content in the process (looking at you SyFy and Bravo), and picked up some new content (Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee! Why had I never heard of this?). Live breaking news on the TV is limited to great apps from CBS and ABC, though with separate internet sources I’m not sure my news sources will ever truly be limited again. At least not in this lifetime. Sports are there through ESPN and CBS Sports, but there’s certainly not as much as on our last DirectTV package.
Now that the context is there, back to the rant. CBS All Access announced a new tier of service, eliminating commercials from streaming content (but not from live content) for an extra fee. The articles that set me off fell into two categories: those that wondered why they didn’t do it for live coverage, and those that assumed that all streaming coverage was commercial free already. There were comparisons to Hulu, but nothing I read noted that Hulu does the exact same thing for streaming content (commercials unless you pay an extra fee). HBO and Netflix just don’t air commercials (except promoting their own programming). That said, we don’t watch the CBS live stream very often: it’s just a rebroadcast of our local CBS affiliate. The only reason to watch would be local news, but even at that, live streaming network coverage is unique to the CBS app. They’re the only one’s that do it. It just seems ridiculous to run them down for not having one feature be as expansive as I’d like even though no one else will even offer me that feature.
Take NBC for example. Much of their programing is available on Hulu, but not all, and arguably not their best (Blacklist). Most of their only official offerings for the Olympics were for non cord cutters, i.e., people who also pay a monthly fee to a cable company such as parent company Comcast. The delayed broadcasts on NBC Sports were generally spoiled. The Sling subscription let us watch events live but with no ability to pause or rewind, and no ability to choose individual events.
Quite simply, NBC left money on the table in the case of people like us. Where CBS streamed the Super Bowl free for all takers (yes, with commercials), NBC simply failed to create realistic options for viewers like us.
We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll pay CBS more money to remove commercials from their stream. Right now they simply aren’t that intrusive: nothing political, nothing local, and mostly promos for their other series. But overall, they seem to be the old school network that’s closest to getting the new era right (with ABC a close second). Their library might be the smallest of the four we pay for, but there’s good content not available elsewhere, at $5.99 per month we use it, and it’s been worth the expense. And bluntly, they should give Corden anything he wants to make him stay at the Late Late Show for years to come. As with the Olympics, some programming is worth paying for.