Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reasons not to subscribe to cable television


Personally, I seek to avoid any recurring monthly expense that can be legally avoided, which is why for the time being I'm sticking with my prepaid cell phone.  Unfortunately, many of these monthly expenses, like car insurance, are nonnegotiable.  TV subscription services, however, increasingly are.  There are more reasons than ever to go without it.

Practical reasons:
-Hulu.com.  I've stopped using this since it's become paid-subscription in the form of Hulu Plus, but some content is still free.
-If there's a show you're really hooked on, most networks offer a certain amount of content free on the network websites these days. 
-Dramafever.com.  This is my Hulu-- if you don't know Korean drama, you should.  Start with Bad Guy, http://www.dramafever.com/drama/738/1/Bad_Guy/.
-The aforementioned Swapadvd.com
-Any DVD you do not wish to go through the swapping process for, or for which there is a long wait time, you can buy used cheaply and quickly at Amazon.com or at any comparable site.
-Get DVDs from the library.  I've chosen to pay twenty dollars a year so I can access the much larger neighboring Wake County library system (though I do this purely for book-related reasons, the DVDs are an added bonus).
-There are antenna-like devices (which I am sure is not quite the proper term) you can buy pretty cheaply that will allow your TV to receive way more stations than it would normally get.  Though there is a start-up cost for this (maybe 30 dollars?), it is not a dreaded recurring expense.
-In my family we have the lower-cost Netflix.com subscription.  It does not allow us access to all content, but I can always find some form of British crime show I haven't seen yet, which is all I ask.

Less prosaic reasons:
-Consider the time cost.  If you are paying to subscribe to cable, it will not only gobble up your money, but I can guarantee it will gobble up a good bit of your time as well-- if you are paying for it, after all, you are going to want to "get your money's worth."  But what about what your time is worth?  That's one thing that's even more valuable than your money to begin with.
-It's addictive and habit-forming.
-It induces passivity, not activity.
-It bombards you and household members with constant advertising.  I won't even get started on product placement, lest this become more a Victor Hugo novel than a blog post.  (If you are led to make purchases based on your exposure to this advertising, that will lead to associated costs.)
-Do you have children in your home?  There are generally nothing but better ways for them to pass their time.  (If you need to occupy them in this way for a while, sit them in front of a DVD from time to time.  I think the benefit of this is tri-fold: It gives you total control over the content they are exposed to, it ends within a finite period of time (whereas TV programming continues forever), and does not subject your children to advertising.)
-Read The Plug-In Drug, http://www.amazon.com/Plug-Drug-Television-Children-Revised/dp/0140076980.  Originally published in 1977, many of the specifics are naturally outdated, but the general concepts in this book are not.  Yes, this is one of my 248 books.
-Potential associated costs: you (or a family member) may well decide to upgrade your TV to get the full benefit from your cable subscription.
-Two final points to consider:  How good is it for your mental fitness?  How good is it for your physical fitness?

If you (or someone you live with) is truly insistent on going with the expense of cable television services, at least sit down and add up the total yearly cost-- then, looking at that big number, is it really worth it? How else could you direct that large amount of money-- towards a vacation, paying down debt, saving for a replacement car?  It's your money, so decide if this is how it is truly best used.

As an aside, I think so much of what used to be valuable content on TV-- such as the news and weather bulletins-- is now more accessible and up-to-date online, which is the way I choose to access such information.  Is this information completely obsolete in TV format?  Not for people who enjoy watching news shows-- I'm just not one of those people.

In this day of potentially constant "entertainment," there is a nearly infinite amount to be said on the subject.  Contribute any thoughts you have about it below.

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