57 Channels and There’s Nothing On
I hate TV. Like that Bruce Springsteen song says, “there was 57 channels and nothin’ on…” Well there is nothing on. Let me admit that I hardly ever watch the Dumb Box, and it doesn’t get switched on too often for the purpose of background noise, either.
Ally McBeal? Don’t know and don’t care, except I know that Ally chick needs to eat once in a while, and buy a gym membership. And am I the only person in America that can lay claim to ignorance of The Sopranos? As much as people try to make these folks out as the paragons of libertarianism in a desperate attempt to legitimize hours staring at the tube, I couldn’t give a hoot. I know, I know, the Soprano worshippers are going to get all riled now and send me hate mail.
Now I do like to switch around between Fox News and CNBC occasionally, and I do watch sports, especially football and hockey, and I like the various ESPN shows, too. In fact, there are two TV shows in the world that I regularly watch, and they are both seasonal sports shows: Inside the NFL and Fox NFL Sunday. Then there are the pro and college football games, hockey and baseball, some college basketball, and the occasional allure of watching the World’s Strongest Man. What a hoot watching these fabulous athletes run up hills with refrigerators on their backs. Oh, and there’s also the once-a-month Trauma ER or Cops reality stuff, but never does a TV series, sitcom, soap opera, or talk show get turned on in this household. We’re Oprah-free and Friends-free around here.
Recently I decided it was time to revamp my TV service for a mish-mash of reasons. Partially it was to slash the budget on the cable TV package, and also, to switch to the same cable TV provider that I use for my cable modem service, which would then reduce my cable modem bill by about ten dollars per month. I found out I could move from analog to digital cable TV, get more channels then I’ll ever watch, AND save some money in total. What a deal.
So I called ‘em up over at Comcast Cable the other day and inquired about switching over to their service. Keep in mind that since I mainly watch sports and news, my Channel IQ is very low. This little dilemma sparked a somewhat interesting conversation:
Comcast Cable, how may I help you today?
Yes, I am currently engaged in a contract with your competitor, and I am thinking about switching to your cable service. Could you give me some package prices please? [you always mention that you might switch over; that way ya break 'em down into waiving the installation costs and dropping the prices of the packages by a few bucks.]
Oh Ma’am, we have a variety of packages though we are phasing out our analog service and going strictly to digital.
Digital? Does this mean I can get rid of that ugly, wood-grained cable box on top of my TV?
No Ma’am. You still need the box for the extended packages and to have the diginet basic channels available.
Oh, I see. And what is diginet basic?
That is all of your basic cable channels with the preferred basic, plus with all of the additional digital basic channels.
Oh. What exactly is the difference between preferred basic and digital basic?
With the digital basic you get all the extra Discovery channels, MTV channels, Disney channels, Nickelodeon channels, and the same for Encore.
Ok, excuse me, for I don’t mean to sound like a dufus, but, I don’t know anything about all of these “extra channels”. You must understand something. I never watch this stuff so you’ll have to come down to my TV IQ here. I mean I really don’t keep up on this channel or that. [She was sweet, and sounded about 25-years-old, so I knew she was part of that generation that watches TV 4.5 hours per day. That would take me two months, except during football/hockey season.] I mean, are you saying there are more than one of each of these channels?
You bet. Digital has four additional Discovery channels: Science, Civilization, Wings, and Home & Leisure; you’ll get three extra Nickelodeon channels; you’d get MTV2, MTVS, and MTVX; plus there are several Encore channels, all with different type themes: mystery, romance, true stories, and then…
Whoa, whoa, now really, I don’t watch all that stuff, I don’t know what it is, and I don’t want it…isn’t there just a basic kinda thing — that has all the plain old, you know, regular channels that I can get?
Well these are regular channels; there’s just more of them. If you get the preferred basic, you can’t get the extra digital channels, and as I said, we’re phasing out the analog package which has the preferred basic.
Well I’m looking at your package price card right here, and it says I get all these digital music channels, too.
You’ll get music stations like world beat, rap, today’s country, classic country, musica latina, body and soul, folklorica, brazilian pop, brazilian beat, and tropical…
Do I pay extra for that? [Oh great, the tropical channel will come in real handy when it's the middle of a gray and soggy February, it's 20 below zero, and I'm depressed over the fact that I'm not laying out on a Nassau beach, sipping pina coladas, and reading L. Neil Smith libertarian fiction.]
Nope, that’s a part of the digital package. And if you want to upgrade, we have our silver, gold, or platinum packages…
Oh that’s ok; like I said, I really watch very little TV these days. I just want the normal channels and HBO.
Oh, well the HBO package comes with the platinum package, which would give you twelve extra HBOs for an extra twenty-eight dollars per month, plus you get the platinum package extras, which would give you sixteen Showtime/FLIX channels, plus nine Encore channels.
Ok, I must be confused. Sorry again. Admittedly, I am the stupid one, not you. I thought the digital package already gave me all them silly Encore channels with “themes”.
Yes, you get those for free. But the platinum package offers nine additional Encores in addition to the digital basic Encore channels, and some of them are Starz channels, too. Plus you get all those HBO and Showtime channels.
Ok, now what if I just want to add HBO, and just ONE HBO channel, because I need to watch Inside the NFL during football season. You see, that’s why I have to have regular HBO from September to January. You know, the great show with Nick Buoniconti, Dan Marino, Len Dawson, Jerry Glanville, and Cris Collinsworth? That’s what I want. That’s all I want. But I don’t want any romance Encore themes or a Discovery thingamajig with Wings or whatever.
Okay, if you purchase the HBO package without the platinum, gold, or silver packages, you’ll get HBO Plus and HBO Signature too, and that’ll be $10.00 per month at individual premium prices.
OK, fine. What are these Spice, Spice2, and Pleasure channels that I see on this channel card? It looks like the basic digital package has those channels included. [And you can bet they ain't cooking channels.]
Those are pay-per-view, but the option for them is only available with the digital package, but not the basic analog.
I thought you were phasing out analog? Or can I get that cheaper?
No, because by the time you get your basic cable you’ll end up paying more for the HBO package that way, so you’ll end up paying as much for the analog, but yeah, we are phasing it out.
Ok, just give me the cheapest way to turn on a TV with all the normal channels…
I don’t really know what you mean by normal channels ma’am.
I mean, no Spice channel junk, no Soap net, no twenty Discovery channels, no body and soul music, and certainly no Brazilian beat…
Oh but you automatically get that with any digital cable. The music — all of it — is free.
So it’s sorta like forced options.
I can’t just pick regular channel stuff and HBO without getting all the extras I don’t want? I mean, I see here that the analog package has just the normal everyday channels that I’m used to.
But we are…
I know, I know, phasing it out. How much do I save on my cable modem if I switch to Comcast?
Ten dollars per month.
It says here on your price sheet that installation is $48.00. I’ll switch if I can get a real good deal on installation.
Oh I can have that fee waived. [Hey, my strategy worked!]
Ok, just tell me how much it will cost to get HBO and whatever else I have to get in order to turn on the TV and have regular HBO.
Well that depends. Have you decided what package you would like ma’am?
Uh, well, I’ll call back later.
Geez, I really hate TV. Since when did watching Inside the NFL become rocket science?
Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a freelance writer and graduate student in economics, and works as a business consultant in the Midwest.