Cable Tv Viewership Drops Like a Hulu-Hoop

A couple of months ago I pointed out that there was little incentive to watch the NBC Thursday night lineup of six comedy shows at their appointed times while sitting in front of a television set. I also suggested that this fact was wreaking havoc on the ratings people regardless of what they said. Why did one need to be glued to their seat to watch a television show when they had the option to watch it at leisure over the Internet on for four or five weeks after first broadcast?

Apparently, the industry is now taking a harder look at this because it was announced in the last couple of days that anywhere between 200,000 to 400,000 subscribers have dropped cable and/or satellite service as a result of economic conditions. It’s ridiculous to spend fifty or more dollars a month to get a daily entertainment fix out of a television set. This is especially so for baby boomers who grew up with free over-the-air tv. We got used to a static and wavy signal unless the antenna or bent wire hanger attached to the set was positioned correctly. We didn’t complain because our choices were limited and we were grateful for even the five or six channels from which to select.

In late 1968, our family moved to an area on the far north side of the city of Chicago that only a couple of years earlier had been built up. There was open space for two full city blocks to the north of us and one to the west. An inexpensive black and white tv sat in my bedroom. The old axiom of ‘what you don’t know you don’t care about’ was true. We didn’t have a color tv set in the house so there was no sense of dissatisfaction because I couldn’t see my favorite shows in color.

As was with most sets built in those days, the uhf band was a separate control and rotary dial. Finding a uhf channel over 13 was not a click to a preset spot as was on the standard 2 thru 13 vhf knob. To get to channel 26 or 32 one had to use the same sensitivity that a seasoned safe-cracker employed to open a vault. By accident, I soon discovered that when the atmosphere was cooperative, I could pick up channels from other cities such as 22 or 23 (Rockford or Elgin?) and 60 (Aurora). This was mighty useful during the football season. In those days, Chicago Bears home games were blacked out on local tv if all the seats were not sold out. The Bears were not that good and had a hard time filling to capacity. Even though the video display was grainy and the audio faint on these out-of-town stations, I was a kid in a candy store.

A handful of years earlier, I’d get a kick out of listening to clear channel out-of-town radio stations at night when the daytime stations in our area stopped broadcasting at sunset. And then I bought a shortwave radio and was able to hear broadcasts from overseas.

Ma now has three color televisions in the house that are cable connected. She only uses one on a regular basis- the others are there for visits by children and grandchildren. The only reason she keeps the cable connection is in order to get the Cubs and Bulls games that are not shown on WGN channel 9.
That is roughly half the games. Otherwise, whatever else she wants to watch can be found on regular television.

Two or three years ago, the FCC, I think, decided that the Chicago area had to get rid of analog signals for over-the-air broadcasts and switch to digital. This meant that each television set in a residence that was not receiving broadcast signals via cable or satellite dish would now be obsolete unless a special convertor box was attached to it to turn the analog signal into digital.

Ma’s only set that was not cable ready was in the kitchen. I went out and bought her a small flat screen, high definition ready digital model to replace the old kitchen unit. Upon initial use, we quickly discovered that the mandate for digital broadcasting included new channels. Several of the local broadcast companies were now offering multiple channels. It was no longer WMAQ channel 5, but 5.1 and 5.2 or WLS 7.1 and 7.2, etc. Each channel had its own theme. In addition there was a movie channel and two versions of a classic shows theme. All in all, there was enough to keep you occupied even if you didn’t have all the cable channels. That is, of course, if you didn’t mind not seeing half your favorite sports teams games.

A throwback to the old ways, but these high tech digital televisions that are not connected to cable or dish require a digital antenna box as well. So, the old rabbit ears still have a place to roost, albeit they contain newer guts. It took only a day or two, but we quickly discovered that the antenna needs to be placed in a certain way or the signal gets blocked. Not only that, but if one stands near the tv set at a certain angle, the signal also cuts out. And weather conditions also affect reception.

So much for progress- and you can’t pick up any out-of-town stations. As for me, I’ll keep my cable. Hey, I have to- it’s part of my monthly condo assessments.

That Three Letter Phone Company

There is a three letter phone company that is out to get me to enter an insane asylum. Mind you, I have no complaints about their service. It’s their persistent marketing that is driving me crazy.

This is no exaggeration- over the past year, I must have received more than a dozen letters from that three letter phone company encouraging me to switch from cable television reception to their product. Their product has some definite improvements that I won’t go into but what they fail to recognize- and I’ve told them this several times over the phone connected to their freaking service- that I live in a condominium. Every unit owner in our building has cable tv through a special group bundle package.

I cannot give up cable television because I still would be obligated to pay for it. The monthly condo fee assessment has the cost built into it. So, why switch to a different service if I am still paying for the other one?

Dear reader- you are intelligent and understand this, correct? If I told you the above you would make a note not to bother me again or you would contact the condo association and ask them about considering a group switch, right? So why cannot the geniuses who figured out the awesome phone grid system also come to the same conclusion?

The latest letter I received is apparently a repeat of a letter they must have sent me two weeks earlier, I’m guessing. It states:

In reviewing your account on 4/14/11, we have found that you qualify for a bundle that may save you money. For only $54 a month for 6 months*, you get:

And then it lists some nice features. It is signed:

That Three Letter Phone Company Customer Service

On the reverse side is where they put the * codicil. It explains in small print what happens after six months. It gets ugly so I will not repeat it here.

Stuck onto this letter, is a yellow post-it note that reads in a fake handwriting:
haven’t heard from you- hope you got this.
Your Three Letter Phone Company Service Rep.

I mentioned this to my friend Stanley who said that he also gets the same harassment and the funny thing is that the service they are offering is not available in his area. I then looked down at the bottom of the letter I received and there it was in bold letters:

Geographic and service restrictions apply. Call or go to our website to see if you qualify.

My question is why bother to send out a marketing letter if the offer is not valid. Doesn’t postage still cost money? And the paper and ink that was used along with the electricity to run the printer as well as the wear and tear on the equipment?

Like that last Beatles song- can’t we just “Let It Be”? Or am I forever to be cajoled into switching television connection service?

By the way, did I mention that once a week I get a letter from the bank that I can write checks from the enclosed forms and that the amount will be tacked onto a line of credit at an interest rate more than ten times the amount I earn at the place?

Why Me?

Could you live without the Internet? It would mean that instead of checking the news and sports any time of the day or night you would have to listen to the radio or watch television or read the newspaper.
It would mean that instead of typing into a search engine the name of a movie star or film title to find out more detail, you would have to ask another live human being what they know about the subject or worse, go to the library and find out for yourself.

Last week Monday evening after 9pm and having finished a remote connection session into a client’s computer system, the dsl modem went beserk. At first, it teased me by showing all steady green lights on the control panel. After unplugging the little black rectangular box and reconnecting it and also rebooting the computer, the modem would play a further game of cat and mouse. The power light stayed steady. The ethernet indicator showed that there was nothing wrong with the network card on the computer. It was that doggone red dsl light that kept flashing and mocking me.
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A Victim of Circumstances

A Victim of Circumstances

Curly of The Three Stooges used to plead plaintively that the mess he was in was due to being a victim of circumstances. It usually just got him a knock on the head or a poke in the eyes.

For baby boomers life seems to be always going in this direction, too. As we age, more and more things happen that we have no control over. It could be a trip due to momentary clumsiness that ends up in a visit to the hospital emergency room. Or all of a sudden the car starts to fall apart and you don’t have enough money to buy even a decent used one without breaking into the retirement income.

It could be the frustration of seeing the next generation in your family tree is not turning out the way you wanted them to. Or all of a sudden people in your age bracket are dropping like flies.
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