T oday marks a time to celebrate life on this Earth as a sports fan, and a time to mourn that existence as a pathetic slave.
It’s the start of college football season, the finest four months in a man’s (or perfect woman’s) year.
It’s also the start of a deplorable, meth-like dependence on cable- and satellite-TV providers.
Groaned at your bill lately? Have you cursed and promised to join the rising number of Americans cutting the cord and turning to alternative methods of watching TV and movies in 2012?
But then the NBA playoffs begin on TNT. Or the Denver Broncos snatch up Peyton Manning in the offseason. Or my alma mater’s volleyball team jumps to the No. 1 national ranking. (Yes, I bounced around shrieking at women’s volleyball on the Big Ten Network this week. Those girls are incredible.)
When these events occur, my pipe dream ends as abruptly as a sudden-death touchdown.
There is no option besides forking over the cash for that ever-growing, painfully frequent subscription-TV bill. What else is a functional sportsaholic supposed to do?
People who ditch traditional pay-TV for options such Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime usually have two things in common. They are not afraid of strange new toys like Roku. And they are not die-hard sports fans. That fancy little streaming gizmo ain’t gonna help you watch the Seahawks’ rookie quarterback.
I know one or two of these cord- cutter people. (They still go camping after Labor Day. Weird, right?)
I applaud their strength. By cutting that cord, they save money and thwart an evil, un-American system, even if they do sometimes invade the Deeds casa to watch a Boise State game on the HD projector.
But I’m also jealous of these non-conformists. They refuse to be hosed by an unfair pricing structure.
“Let the customers pay for channels they actually watch” was the headline this week in David Lazarus’ consumer column in the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine.
Lazarus, a contributor to American Public Media’s Marketplace radio program, took aim at the infuriating, all-too-common feuds between programming companies and providers. If you’re a DirecTV customer, you’re aware of the recent negotiating hissyfit that briefly caused Viacom channels such as Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV to vanish.
“These endless spats among media behemoths would go away instantly,” Lazarus wrote, “if viewers had the ability to choose which channels they pay for.”
What a revolutionary concept, right? Paying for what you want to watch? Not paying for what you don’t?
It’s called a la carte pricing. And it’s not coming anytime soon in the good ol’ U.S. of A. The mountains of cash being generated by the entertainment companies are too titanic. And idiots like me are still willing to have their wallets abused.
What would you be willing to pay for just the channels you watch?
If I could get ESPN and the other sports channels for a reasonable price — basically, anything less than I’m paying now — I’d probably drop everything else. When it comes to anything but sports, there are always options: Streaming. Downloading. Renting.
Growing choices and a slow economy have made competition stiff between pay-TV providers. Want to save a few bucks? Phone customer retention. Sob. You’ll probably get your bill reduced temporarily. Score free HBO or Skinemax for a month or two. They’ll toss you little Scooby Snacks to keep you off their backs while still paying for dozens of channels you don’t watch.
Ultimately, the paradigm has to change. It’s not an if, it’s a when. Even the most diehard sports fanatic will hit a breaking point. Or declare bankruptcy. Or bail on principle.
It might require government intervention for a la carte pricing to arrive. It’s happening in Canada.
But as Lazarus points out, our own Federal Communications Commission doesn’t appear to be proactive beyond a predictable, disappointing “no comment.”
I’d complain more, but I don’t really have time. I need to get my DVR set for tonight’s BSU-Michigan State football game on ESPN.
Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. (But not this Sunday.) He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM “The River” and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.