Signal To Noise

Today, I cancelled my satellite TV service. I have no more broadcast or cable TV.

I hate saying that, since I’ve met so many people who get so in-your-face about not watching TV. You know the type. All you have to do is mention that, say, you saw the football game last night, and wasn’t that a great interception, and these people will literally pounce from half a room away, rushing over to inform you, for the eighty-sixth goddamn time, they they wouldn’t know, because they don’t watch TV. They’re too busy reading books and doing macrame and yoga and running their own business selling homemade homeopathic herbal tea.

For me, the decision isn’t really being driven by some sense of cultural superiority, but simple economics. For a long time now, I’ve been watching basically two things on TV: The Daily Show, and various forms of motor racing on Speed Channel. That’s really about it. It’s not that the other stuff on TV “isn’t good,” or even that I wouldn’t necessarily like it. It’s just that it has to compete with other forms of entertainment that I find more compelling: movies, downloaded foreign TV shows, video games, and books. Add to this the fact that the better segments of The Daily Show show up for download semi-regularly on BoingBoing, and the fact that the winter is a racing wasteland (except for the upcoming Paris-Dakar Rally), and the equation becomes fairly clear:

I’m paying $50 a month for the privilege of not actually watching any TV. That’s $600/year. If you asked me explicitly “How much is it worth to you to watch The Daily Show and all the F1 and MotoGP races?” my answer would be “significantly less than $600/year.” So this is a case where the economy of scale of TV delivery works in the exact opposite way that I want. Let’s say a satellite provider carries 150 channels. They want to deliver those 150 channels to me for $50/month. Really, I just want Speed Channel and Comedy central. I’m willing to pay, say, $10/month for just those 2 channels. Too bad. I’m out of luck, the satellite provider is out of luck, and instead I’ll be looking to download video of races a day later, online.

Maybe my $10/month simply can’t be captured – perhaps the cost of sales to someone like me is prohibitively high, and it’s not worth trying. It does seem like a strange failure, though. My impression is that as the internet accustoms us to content that is more and more specifically tailored to our desires, it is becoming a more common failure.

How much TV do you watch? How much are you paying? Is it worth the money to you?