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Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing. That’s how I feel at this moment along the TV entertainment timeline. I thought I was going to join the ranks of cord cutters this month. Right now, that feels a little like jumping into quicksand.
A TiVo executive called this period in TV programming an “inflection point.” The company presented findings of a first-half 2021 video entertainment report based on a survey of 4,500 consumers on a webinar last week and, boy, are things dazed and confused. TiVo’s Fariba Zamaniyan, vice president-advanced media and advertising, compared this period to the beginning of cable due to audience “fragmentation,” only now consumers are juggling linear TV and myriad over-the-top (OTT) services.
The average consumer watched just under nine video streaming services from January-June, five of those paid. It’s even more, 11.3, for the 18-30 age group. The amount of content out there is terrific, but, as Zamaniyan pointed out, the fragmentation makes it difficult and frustrating to find and watch content — especially at a price that’s affordable.
Her takeaway: Consumers are looking for a better way to manage content “and have it accessible at the right cost through a single platform or resource.” Check. Kase Niles, senior manager-research and strategy at TiVo, believes consumers are looking for a single interface from which they can pay for all their content. Check. In the survey, 88 percent of respondents were interested in the ability to view, browse and search all of their available content from one guide or menu, and 35 percent were “extremely interested.” Check.
But no platform or service gives me all of that, along with all the content I want. That’s why I can’t make a move — yet.
We have a triple play plan through Fios for broadband, TV and voice, which I need for work, for $205.95 monthly. That’s $3.29 more than I paid last month because my two-year contract expired. It’s funny how $3.29 can make you angry when you pay more than that for a latte, but it’s the principle. I’ve been a loyal Verizon subscriber for years, and my thanks for continuing to be a Fios customer after my contract ended is a price increase of $39.48 a year.
I found a slightly better deal and told a Verizon chat rep about it in a lengthy back-and-forth Sunday. She gave me a “let me check” like I was negotiating a car deal and confirmed I could get that lower price if I would just follow a link to, yes, another contract. I came within a tap of committing to another two-year contract to save $7 a month, but the fine print gave me agita and I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I’d forfeit discounts if I changed any part of the plan, and that would likely include my discounted price for internet. They get you coming and going.
I fully expected last spring that I would become a cord cutter when August rolled around. Over the past few years, a lot of people fled traditional pay-TV, and I got why. They were saving money, they didn’t want to commit to a contract and everything was moving to streaming. Who needs a DVR when you can get a cloud-based DVR from a streaming service? Who needs a clunky cable box when you can get live TV over broadband or antenna?
I’m tired of paying to rent a cable box from Verizon for one TV and a cable card for the TiVo DVR for the other. I don’t need to pay $25 for an Extreme HD package that includes HBO Max and Showtime and another $8.89 for regional sports networks. I should alternate between HBO Max and Showtime like the cord cutters do. We’re a divided Yankees and Mets household so we rarely watch either to keep the baseball peace. I pay separately to watch my number-one baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, on my phone.
That MLB.tv sub is one of a dozen or so SVOD services we pay for on top of Fios TV including Amazon Prime Video, and we pay for Acorn, PBS and BritBox through Amazon. On Roku, we watch Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ (a bundle via my wireless plan); Apple TV+; Netflix; Discovery+; Peacock; and CBS All Access. That’s ridiculous and exhausting.
Something’s gotta give, only I don’t know what it is yet. I still want local broadcast and pay-TV channels like CNN, ESPN, Turner, The Weather Channel and MS-NBC. I could get those through virtual pay-TV services like YouTube, Sling TV and Hulu+Live TV, but their prices are rivaling Fios TV prices now — without the hardware rental fees. @Sarcastic Mommy hit it on the head when she tweeted last week: “I like how I ditched my $150 cable bill to now have $200 worth of streaming apps.”
Rock and a hard place…that’s where we are. The TiVo report said on average consumers spend $142.20 monthly on internet and video, but that’s not even their biggest gripe. Top pain points are finding good TV shows and movies to watch (60%), figuring out which service has the most desired content (59%), cost (55%), the large number of services available (55%), when content disappears from a service (55%), and having to go in and out of multiple apps (46%).
We have a few beefs in our household: When you don’t know which service you’re using to watch Season 4 of Blacklist, and you forget where you are in the timeline of the show. And, trying to mentally sort through all the shows you’re currently watching and can’t remember the name to do a voice search. Or, paying all over the place for various services.
We want all of our shows — broadcast, pay-TV and streaming — gathered in one easy-to-navigate folder, ready to pick up where we left off, and with smart suggestions for similar shows we’ll like — without paying an arm and a leg, or through multiple providers. Any takers?